#MsSunFun: The Dot Game

After a beautiful and relaxing fall weekend in Wisconsin, I feel refreshed and ready for the many weeks ahead.  I love going up to Wisconsin where I can slow down and take time for myself…it took me a while to realize that it was okay to do this every now and again. It’s also easy to “unplug” up there…cell phone service is spotty around the lake, I don’t have cable/satellite tv, and while I do have wireless internet, I find I rarely take the computer out of the bag. Heck I didn’t even break out the shiny new ipad this weekend either! 🙂 So, now I am back and ready for October and I made it home with just enough time to submit my #MsSunFun post!

I was so excited for the Favorite Ways to Practice topic because I do so many different things. Then as I was driving home and thinking about what I was going to post, this fear crept up…I wasn’t sure there was anything in my files that I had created or that wasn’t already shared by many of you. EEEEKKK!!! My original ideas, where have they gone? 🙂  But amazingly enough, I found something, here you go!

The Dot Game
I use this as part of a class period (I have 41 minutes), usually after direct instruction or deriving a rule, etc. I enjoy playing this game with the kids because they all know it, so I don’t HAVE to explain the rules in detail and they do like it, even with the math component. It also gives me the chance to go around the room and check in with pairs of students to clear up misconceptions or listen to them problem solve.  Since my students sit in groups of four and there are two high students and two low students in each group, I make sure the pairs are a high and a low working together.

The Rules

  • Students take turns connecting any two dots together which are next to each other, either horizontally or vertically. (I usually will say the student with the birthday closest to the date we are playing goes first.)
  • Students play on one dot game board together, but must have separate sheets to show their work.
  • If you join two dots together to form the last side of a four-sided box, you need to correctly answer the math problem in the box in order to shade it in with your color.  If you get the problem incorrect, your partner gets to color it if they have the correct answer. (Or the partner may steal the box by making corrections to the problem, I usually will say if partner has it correct on their paper, they get the box because it does get each partner working on problems at the same time and no one is waiting for the other to be done.)
  • If you create a box and correctly solve a problem, you get to take another turn to draw one line.
  • How do they check their answers? They don’t really HAVE to.  I tell them since they are both solving at the same time, they can use each other to check off of.  If they do not agree, they need to agree before moving on to the next question. If they can’t agree, they can ask me.  I tell them IF I collect it, all problems must be done by each student AND partners must have the same answers for each.
  • The winner is the student that captures the most squares.

The students find it a fun way to practice, I like that it is with partners and is self-checking and it gives me the opportunity to walk around and see if there are any common errors that I may need to address the next day.

Here is a version for Zero & Negative Exponents.  Usually, I only provide one side which has 15 problems due to my short 41 minute periods, but last year I had a smarty pants Algebra class that always blew through practice like nothing, so I created one that was double sided for extra practice.

Enjoy!

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#MsSunFun: Classroom Management

What a beautiful fall day it is! My two pups woke me up EARLY, so I took them to the dog park to expend energy to allow me to get school work done.  I’ve been sitting at the computer for the last 2 hours while they sleep downstairs and have played on twitter, downloaded more fun/cute fonts (I have an addiction) and now I am doing my first MS Sunday Funday post to continue to procrastinate planning and grading. Yeah! I have a bunch of other posts I might crank out as well, many people want to know how Open House/Curriculum Night went…I promise that post will be next!

Classroom Management, do we ever get it right? I swear in my 13 years of teaching I have tried something new every year. A few things I hold on to and a few things I drop right away.  We are a PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention System) school, so there are a few guidelines set into place school wide, which is helpful. I teach 8th grade, which is NOT helpful when dealing with classroom management. 🙂

This year I adopted @misscalculate’s Two Nice Things rule. I am SO glad that I came across that before the year started. I have always disliked the students being mean to each other and they love calling each other out with this rule when they are. It works great for my students and I do think that it is helping them consider what they say. Thank you @misscalculate! I created a poster for my room, I printed it on three sheets of paper taped them together and laminated it. Actually, I sent it to my district print center after the fact because I thought it was too small and had them print it on 11×17 paper in color and then I taped it together and laminated it. I hung it right above the smartboard in the front of my room. Here is the file if you want it:

In the 8th grade we use PRIDE cards (Producing Responsible Individuals Dedicated to Excellence) as our Positive reward. In 6th grade they get a ticket per good thing, in 7th they have a card with 10 signature spots (a teacher signs for good things) and in 8th we have 20 signature spots. They can then turn in a completed card for rewards or hold on to them until our end of quarter raffle, where we have gift cards and bigger prizes.  I like it, it seems to work, but I am always the teacher who forgets to ask them for their card to sign it. I made a goal to be better this year!

I believe that classroom management doesn’t always involve the classroom.  I do my best to be out in the hallway welcoming students before class (a la @ddmeyer), that happens about 60% of the time even though I KNOW how important it is. The other issue is my room is in a corner with another classroom door (doors make an L shape) and another classroom to my left, so it is a traffic jam every period. Any suggestions on how to get myself outside my door? I also send home positive postcard randomly when I am impressed with something, when a student does something well, or when I see someone struggling and I think they need a boost. File is below. I attend school functions (games, meets, matches, concerts, etc) to show support. I like talking to a student the next day about what I saw them do the day before.

Consequences? I always talk about respect being the most important since they are 8th grade students, but there are always those yahoo’s who want to push all limits.  The school is on a step 1-warning, step 2-call home/2nd warning, step 3-detention system. Here is how I make that system work for me: (Side note: due to the parent clientele in my district, documentation is necessary (we get called out a lot), especially with student input on the documentation, this should explain the need for the forms below)

Warning – When they are given a warning, I have a slip they are given to fill out. It’s copied on bright pink paper (see below). I tell the students that in order to keep the class moving in the little (41 minutes) time we have, I will place it on their desk, they fill it out and then we will have a conversation about it before the end of the period. Sometimes that conversation clears up a misunderstanding on my part and I throw away the warning and sometimes the warning goes in my file. Students want to be heard, so I find that small discussion about the warning is helpful.

Warning – part 2 – Tardies and being unprepared go on a separate form (copied on bright green paper) because of some reason I can’t remember now. I think part of it was for space and because those two actions weren’t directly related to what I consider in class behaviors. Either way, it still serves as a warning for the tardy, but solely as documentation for the homework piece. Homework is not graded in my class but is required to do, so I like having that documentation when I speak to the student about the homework or have to call a parent about it. see form below:

Steps 2 & 3 – School Detentions are served before or after school, but are school wide, so they don’t serve with me. They serve with whatever teacher has detention duty at the time they serve.  I don’t particularly like that so I have implemented a lunch conversation with me for step 2.  The student has to spend their lunch with me talking about their behavior and whatever else we end up talking about.  I don’t intend to make it “fun”, but I try to show them why their behavior affects the classroom and we talk about solutions. I tell the students this is my way of giving that final reminder that a “real” detention is next. Usually it doesn’t get to step 3. See below for this pass (copied on purple)

I keep all of this in a fantastic folder thing (originally purchased at Target YEARS ago-will add picture tomorrow) that has a folder for each period where I keep the form below and places to keep referrals, detentions, etc. I keep all of the slips in a metal holder on my desk so I can get the one I need. Because of the student filling out the form piece, I don’t have to stop class to write anything at that moment in binder. I tend to do it all at the end of the day, as needed.I don’t always need all this stuff I have put in place, but one year when we had a very disruptive group of students, and parents who believed everything their child said, my documentation was awesome!

Here is where I need help from all of you…I have realized that even with my system and how well it does work, I tend to not like to give the warnings for excessive talking because everyone is always doing it. Am I really going to walk around and hand out 15 warnings?  We have implemented CRISS strategies this year, I mainly use the Voice Levels (seen below, document was given to me by another teacher who I think grabbed it online so I can’t credit it). However, the TALKING is always such a problem.  I HATE shushing, I dislike when students pipe in with “Quiet guys, she is waiting”, and I hate that they like to talk when I breathe. Mind you I am only talking for maybe 10 minutes or 15 minutes of the period via direct instruction (& it’s not always together), so I am not asking for much, but they can not get it. I am fine with all of the talking when they are working together and I do redirect the social talking at that time, but they talk during quizzes (only my Pre-Algebra classes do), even though I walk around and warn about cheating. I do #SBG so taking the quiz away and giving them a zero doesn’t have much effect.  It doesn’t help that they were known to be a chatty bunch from the 7th grade teachers. Supporting documentation #1 – I was out on Wednesday because I had a meeting at the district office for the math #CCSS curriculum committee I am on. Note from my sub? They would not stop talking at all. Any suggestions on how I can combat this?

I am glad I jumped in on the MS Sunday Funday! I hope maybe I contributed something that someone will be able to use OR will give me some better suggestions on how to improve!

Now, I am finally off to plan, grade and plan some more!

Open House/Curriculum Night

This year we are doing an Open House format for our yearly Curriculum Night (some of you may call it Parent Night).  In the past the parents have followed their child’s schedule, where each class was about 10 minutes long.  I never felt as though I had enough time, they would leave the class before mine late and then get to my class late and I would then have 8 minutes to spew all of the information that I knew they were looking for.  I would do that five times throughout the evening and have little voice or energy left at the end of the night.  This year, at the prompting of a few 8th grade teachers, we decided to try something new and do an Open House format.  This will allow the parents to move freely throughout the school to their child’s teachers.  I like this format because every year the parents said they didn’t have enough time with each teacher to get what they felt they needed/wanted.  Many parents duck out after seeing the one or two classes they really wanted to see or many left early because they just got tired.  I think this format will work well, but I am VERY interested in seeing the comments from the parents afterwards.  The main difference I have seen so far is that the Open House format seems to require more front end work to prepare, but I don’t imagine I will leave as tired and drained as in past years.  We will see…it’s Monday!

Basically I have spent a very large part of my weekend figuring out what I was going to have set up in my room for parents.  I envision smaller “stations” of information that I would have in the past spewed at them and handed out in a packet format. Using my classroom desk set up in 8 groups of 4, I will have the following stations set up (About Me, Procedures/Grading/etc., Example Task and High School Placement information), where each station has two areas set up…so only 4 stations.  I will be the 5th station, should parents want to introduce themselves or talk to me.  My main concern is having the confidence to let a parent know that there are other parents waiting and asking if I could contact them tomorrow to finish our discussion. I have said it a few times to other teachers and it seems easy enough, but in the situation it is so much harder to get out of a conversation and move on to another parent. Since I teach 130 students, it is possible that there will be a lot in my room at one time; I hope that the station format will help because they can visit in any order and can visit a station (or go to another classroom) if there are a few waiting to speak with me.

Let’s walk through my Open House set up (this is also so I can make sure I’ve got it all figured out). 🙂
(On our letter home about it last week, at my request, we did ask that they bring a Smart Device if they had it.)

Outside my room – The document below posted outside my classroom, saw an example on Pinterest but it wasn’t linked to any specific blog.

Entrance – Have a half sheet 2 sided handout that explains what information is at each station and contains a sentence or two about talking with me and courtesy to other parents or something along those lines.  On the back will be more QR Codes with links underneath for those without a smart device.  There will be codes to my Remind101 class signup, set up as a text message to send (there will be 4 on the sheet, one for each math class) and the other code will be to my song that I spent a good part of yesterday creating.  Because I was working on that and not the other million things I had to do, regardless of my lack of ability to sing, I am posting it for you all to hear and it will go home with the parents. It might just be a disaster, but I had fun coming up with the lyrics. I want to create a video for it, or even a powerpoint with the words, but that is last on my to do list for tomorrow.  If it doesn’t get done, at least they get the song. http://bit.ly/Q8tgR6

Projected on my Smartboard – I will have a single file welcoming parents and stating my name and what I teach each period.  I will also have my contact information on this slide for those without a smart device. (My contact information will also be on my main handout)

Station 1 – About Me – I will have a half sheet copied with the same quiz I gave the students all about me. (Idea came from the Middle School Math Wiki – http://msmathwiki.pbworks.com/f/Pop+Quiz+-+First+Day.pdf) I will have the answers in a QR code taped to the desk or the wall behind this station and a note to have them ask their student (if they don’t have a smart device) because we did it on the second day of school and they should remember the answers.

Station 2 – Procedures/Grading/etc – I couldn’t come up with anything fun/different for this station, so it will be my main syllabus type handout.  Since I don’t hand out a syllabus to my students, this is my main way of communicating information about my classroom to the parents. I will have my example ISN & grading rubric on the desk along with an example graded (with feedback) skills quiz. I will also have out the supplies bin that I provided each group, so they can see it. I think I may make a request for scotch tape at this table too…these ISN’s are going to eat up the tape because students do not have any idea what it means to use a SMALL piece of tape!  There will be a QR code for parents to scan for the document, if they would prefer that method.

Station 3 – Example Task – I want to provide the parents with a window into the world of Common Core tasks and the group work that I expect of their students.  I thought that I would have two different short tasks for them to do, one more in line with my Pre-Algebra (Grade 8 CC) curriculum and one more in line with my Algebra 1 curriculum. It needs to be short and I would like it to be fun.  Do I have any idea what these are yet? NOPE! If you have any suggestions or ideas, please let me know! I will be finalizing this station Monday after school and before 7pm when our Open House starts.

Station 4 – High School Placement Information – Amazingly enough, 8th grade parents want to know about HS placement every year at Curriculum Night.  I will provide them with a flow chart of the HS courses and the placement information along with a reminder of the Explore test days, which is a large part of their placement into HS courses. (We provide HS placements in January, but providing this information now is helpful to the parents)

Station 5 – Me! – I will be standing towards the front of the room, which will allow to me to welcome parents and say goodbye as they leave. And, of course, be available to answer questions and meet parents!

Exit – Socrative Survey – I will have laptops available to complete the survey online or directions so they can complete it on their phone while heading to another classroom.  I will ask Parent Name, Student Name, Parent Email, Did you get the information you were looking for tonight?, If not, what are you interested in hearing more about?, Did you like this format? (A change from previous years), Comments/Suggestions/Questions.

PHEW!! It sounds like a lot, but I really wanted to make it a format where they can get the information they need and want without having to get it directly from me.  We will see how it goes!! Oh and I will definitely have some chocolate candy available as well! 🙂

Why I teach Math

It’s 11:15pm (when I started this) and I was at school until 6:30pm, came home, ate dinner, and have been on the computer working on more school stuff since 8pm. (darn you Common Core!)  It was about 5 minutes ago that I remembered it was Tuesday, NOT Monday, and my New Blogger post is due before midnight.  Oops!

Why do I teach? It’s all I really ever wanted to do. I grew up playing school with my little sister, older cousin and sometimes my stuffed animals and even my barbies played school. We had a huge metal teacher desk in the basement that my dad got from work and I filled the drawers with workbooks and worksheets. We even had two metal student desks that lifted up to hold things inside. Sadly many a finger was squashed by those lids…sometimes accidental, sometimes intentional. 🙂 I started as a mother’s helper in 5th/6th grade and babysat through high school.  I loved being around kids, it was natural for me to be the one at the family parties always playing with and entertaining the little ones. I started teaching swim lessons at 15 and loved it; there were lesson plans to follow and create and I enjoyed all of it. Everything that I did and enjoyed pointed towards teaching.  All of those career “tests” you take in high school put me in the category that included teachers. The ONLY other career that I considered was a Marine Biologist, so I could train whales and dolphins. But the next best thing is that is the career my sister ended up in.

Why Math?   It’s kind of funny actually…I knew I wanted to teach, in fact I SWORE I wanted to teach 2nd Grade, so I majored in Elementary Ed.  I took Spanish for 4 years in High School and took a placement test for college and tested out of 12 credits of classes.  Since I had to have a minor and I only needed 24 credits, I thought having Spanish would be easier to finish (less classes, yeah!) and that it would be helpful in teaching because it was becoming a more prevalent language. Freshman and Sophomore year went by and in the middle of my Junior year we had to start talking and figuring out student teaching placements for the end of my Senior year.  It was January, on January 15th, we had to pay for a month long trip to Mexico as part of the Spanish Minor. I think I met with my adviser January 12th. She asked me what grades I was interested in student teaching, by that time I had clearly ruled out 2nd grade and had been in a 4th grade room too and thought maybe 4th or 5th.  She then explained that I had to do half of my student teaching in an elementary setting and half in a middle school setting and that in the middle school I would be student teaching Spanish. I asked why and she said, because that’s your Minor and at the middle school level you usually focus your teaching in your minor area.  (This was before they changed many state rules to say that you had to have a minor or 24 credits to teach more than one class of a subject in middle school/junior high).  I told her that I didn’t want to teach Spanish, that I just wanted it for knowledge and it’s usefulness in the future.  She pretty much told me tough.

So….in January of my Junior year of college, I switched from a Spanish Minor to a Math Minor.  I completely dropped Spanish and was only one Mexico trip and one class short of having it as a minor. I chose Math because I was always really good at it and I loved that it was all problem solving and that you could get to a solution.  Plus, I definitely didn’t want to teach reading or writing (LA), History or Science and since I was thinking of the middle school part of my student teaching…it came to Math. I took 3 Math classes in the Spring of my Junior Year (Linear Algebra, Modern Geometry and Elementary Statistics). I took one class in the summer as I stayed up there just to get math courses done and I took 3 math courses in the fall semester (Calculus, and two I can’t remember right now).  I would NOT recommend taking Calculus with two other math courses, that was brutal. And finally I took an Independent Study (had to BEG the teacher) during January since no math courses I needed were available. I had to stack the classes in because they didn’t allow you to take any courses during student teaching, other than student teaching seminar.

While I would definitely NOT recommend going about it the way I did, I am amazed at how teaching Math just “fits” me.  I can’t imagine doing ANYTHING else, even on the really really bad days. I ended up getting a student teaching internship for the Spring of my Senior year in 6th grade Math at a Middle School and was completely sold on Middle School and the upper grades. And because it was an internship, I stayed there for my entire student teaching experience.

I pretty much jumped into Math headfirst and happily ended up exactly where I was supposed to be the whole time.