#geomchat: Come Chat!

@barbarawmadden (barbarawmadden.wordpress.com) & I are starting up a Geometry chat on Wednesdays at 9EST/8 Central and we would LOVE for you to join us!  We will start this Wednesday, July 3rd and our first topic is going to be transitioning to the CCSS as many of us are making the switch this fall, will be soon or already have.

We look forward to seeing you on Wednesday!

The chat will be storified & linked on my blog in case you can’t make it. 

I tried hunting down Geometry teachers on Twitter, but was a little overwhelmed.  So please share and invite those you know who teach Geometry!

#MyFavFriday: How Are We Learning?

MFFOne of my favorite organizational things is Pinterest. I feel bad for those that follow any of my boards because I’ve been pinning things like crazy! Obviously it’s summer and I have time to spend hunting things down to pin to my boards; never mind the things I should ACTUALLY be doing…like those listed on my Summer To Do List.  (Note to self: add Pinning cool things on Pinterest to Summer To Do List so I can cross it off).

Earlier this week a teacher from my school pinned a neat anchor chart/poster titled How Are We Learning?  I thought it was a great way to clearly communicate classroom expectations, especially with CCSS and the push for inquiry and collaborative grouping students.  They really don’t always know what the expectations are for each situation or my 8th grade students pretend not to know.  The pin was only a picture, so I tried to hunt down the original author & even commented on the pin to try and find out more.  This is the problem with Pinterest, awesome ideas that aren’t properly linked to provide author credit or to provide answers to questions about whatever the activity, project, etc. is. If you know who created this or where it is on the web, please let me know so I can provide credit where credit is due!

I like using cute computer fonts and colors and I like having printed posters for my room.  So I decided to make an electronic version of the How are we learning chart.  AIH is believed to stand for Academic Intervention Hour, which we do not have, so I removed it and created just 4 sections.  I used the wording from the original chart, even though the teacher from my school who pinned it and I use different methods for students to get our attention.  I am not sure this is exactly what I will print poster size for my room, but I wanted to share anyways!

What would you keep, change or add to the poster to make it more meaningful for your classroom?


#Made4math: Thinking is Visible

20121001-135141.jpgWaaaayyy back in March when @pamjwilson (pamjwilson.wordpress.com), made a comment on Twitter about a sign she wanted that contained a quote from the book Making Thinking Visible, I jumped in and created it for her.  It was the perfect thing I needed to procrastinate a few things I needed to get done.  But it also enticed me to purchase the book and get reading! Though the reading part ended up a little delayed…I am just now finishing it.

I wanted to share the poster because now that I am reading the book, I understand Pam’s desire for the quote to be in her room.  It is important to communicate to students that thinking is important to learning..the process of discussing and working through a problem is just as important as knowing and understanding what the problem is asking.  This poster will be displayed in my room next year for sure!  Thanks Pam!  I recommend this book to everyone!!  I have found it especially applicable to my US History classes and can’t wait to weave in all of the ideas I gained!

My Kryptonite – the *perfect* teacher plan book

MFFNo, I haven’t seen the new Superman yet. I’ve heard conflicting reviews, but I do want to see parts of the local town Plano, IL which is in the movie, so I might venture out to see it soon.  Anyways, one of my first posts was about technology as a time saver and how I used technology to create helpful teacher organizational documents.  I have found that I like when things are pretty and organized, it makes me happy and excited to use them.  In order to help me get excited for the new year, I updated my teacher plan book to create something organized and useful. I have to say I am pretty excited about the result!

My Plan Book Parts
*I have scoured the internet for what I wanted, therefore my parts are made up of self-created items and free items on the internet. Links to where I found things on the internet are provided, with permission from the author.

  • 3-ring binder – this year I scored a bright green binder (you can see the edge of it below) with the clear view pockets on the outside when a student put it in the trash in my room at the end of the year.  It was BRAND NEW!
  • Cute Fonts – Wish I Were Taller by Kevin & Amanda and Cinnamon Cake – I have hundreds of fonts on my computer (& I tend to add new ones daily), but I use these two a lot.
  • Custom Cover – I came across this AMAZING website by Miss Tiina, where she has tons of free printables.  I used one of her journal pages as my cover when I got tired of trying to create my own.  Amazingly enough it matched the bright green binder I scored at the end of the year!
  • Color theme – I fell in love with the stuff that Miss Tiina has created and spent HOURS looking through her freebies and printables.  Once I determined what I wanted to use, I couldn’t figure out how to match the colors she used exactly.  My attention to detail in this regard caused me to email her and ask if she would provide the colors used so I could create my own cover (which I didn’t end up doing out of lack of creative genius), but it did allow me to color match everything else! WOO HOO! With her permission, here are the colors to match! I am amazed every day at the things available online when you take the time to search and the willingness to freely share that other bloggers, teachers and designers have. Thank you Miss Tiina!!
  • Printable Divider pagesWHAT? WHAT? – Yes, you heard me correctly. Avery makes 3-ring binder tabbed dividers that you can print on using their template. I think I was skipping through Staples when I went to purchase mine. 🙂 I color coded the tabs using the same colors, and even decorated the divider page with some color and the same words that I put on the tabs. I probably could have made the dividers even more cute and colorful, but my impatience to print on them won out and I left them fairly plain. 🙂
  • 2013-2014 At a Glance Calendar – Used excel to create this on one page and used the same fonts and colors as other parts of the plan book
  • Dated Monthly Calendar pages – Again, Miss Tiina came through with exactly what I wanted, cute fonts, and color matched (by sheer luck) to everything else I was putting together. The calendars are one page per month with an area at the bottom for notes, which is great for us teachers because gosh knows things get added all of the time and we write notes everywhere! I uploaded her calendar graphics into powerpoint, moved them around so the 3-hole punch didn’t go through a bunch of dates when I printed them back to back and then used text boxes and Cinnamon Cake font to type in the District Calendar events on the calendars before I printed them.  Cute fonts are better than my ugly handwriting.
    Here is the link to her 2013 Calendar and Here is the link to her 2014 Calendar
  • Dated Plan Book pages – Earlier I posted about my plan book for this past school year, but (funny ha ha) I didn’t end up using it much and in fact didn’t print out anything other than the 1st quarter pages. This is largely due to  another way I organize my Algebra and Pre-Algebra files. But this year I really need to use it and keep myself organized in planning Geometry and History and I have nothing else to fall back on.  So I jazzed it up a bit, made curved edges and color matched it.  The best part is that I created it in Excel, so it is dated and the dates self populate for the entire year when I change the very first date! It is a 2 page spread per week.
  • Meeting Notes pages – I haven’t quite finalized exactly what I want to use for these pages. I have a few options, but I don’t exactly know where I got them, so I don’t want to post them here. I want these pages because I need to keep better track of discussions at team meetings, grade level meetings, PLC Meetings, etc.  I can print the agendas and put them in that section or write notes on a cute form.  To be decided I guess!
  • Dated Gradebook pages – I also jazzed up my gradebook pages a bit and used the same fonts. It is also dated with a two page spread for each quarter.  I have to wait until I get my rosters to print them…but I already love them! I have explained before that I have gotten burned once too many by our online gradebook program, so I record everything on paper and then transfer it to the online gradebook. A mix of old school and new school, but it has been quite a benefit, especially using SBG.

PHEW! I think that is it (for now at least). 🙂  A few teachers at school heard about and saw me creating this at the end of the year and I have made a few custom plan books and gradebooks for them using my Excel self-created documents above.  Isn’t it funny how cute fonts and colors gets us teachers all jazzed up? Oh that and really nice pens!

What is in your teacher plan book/binder? What have you found invaluable to keep in your plan book/binder? Do you use something that you think I need to add? 🙂

SBG Reflections

All you awesome teachers in my blog reader keep writing amazing posts that remind me of things I wanted to reflect on or write about.  Fawn Nyugen wrote a great post about her first year of SBG and it caused me to reflect on my four years of using SBG and how I will apply it to Geometry next year, which I’ve never taught. So, without the elegant writing that Fawn has and copying her headings, here is my reflection! In order to make it easy to read, I am linking to documents rather than embedding them.

What worked

  • Incorporating a Google Form for retakes. I created mine from a mix of those I saw online and even though I waited until 4th Quarter to do so, it helped SO much.  Mainly because I found a script that emails me the form responses when students hit submit…there is NO need for me to check the form daily! It even comes through the email nice and neat.  I then created a folder in my email with a rule that all emails with the Request to Reassess in the subject (set up in the google form), get sent to this specific folder. I liked this because it removed the requests for passes during class time and asked the students to reflect.  And they reflected pretty well seeing as though I added this 4th quarter.
  • Only allowing lunch retakes on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.  This allowed me to have Wednesdays to meet with students who needed help and Fridays because we have treat Friday’s in the 8th grade office and I like spending that time with those awesome teachers.
  • Color coding my PAPER gradebook. Students who earned a 2-1-0 on a skill were highlighted in pink once I posted a note in their online gradebook. The note in the gradebook mentioned that I wanted to see them during lunch to review their missed skill…this was the same thing I wrote on their quiz. I highlighted the students who mastered the skill in green. This allowed me to easily view which skills I needed to reteach and which skills most of the class had mastered.
  • Requiring two 4’s (two mastery scores) in order to fully master (or be completed with) a skill.  I liked this because the questions on the second quiz were a little more difficult in nature, really challenging students to prove their knowledge. I have no idea how I can do this with Geometry when it is all so new to me.
  • Skills Checklist.  It’s amazing how much 8th grade students LOVE stickers! They get a sticker when they master a skill.  This allowed them to know AT ANY TIME, which skills they still needed help with.  I like this because they kept all of their skill quizzes in a folder along with the checklist and they didn’t need technology to log into the gradebook to see what they needed to skill master.  I find the stickers at the dollar store or Target’s $1 section and even got quite  a few packs for Christmas this past year from students.
  • Short Skill quizzes. Most had 1-4 skills being assessed through 4-10 questions, with 2-4 questions per skill. This meant they didn’t take students they entire 45 minute period to take the quiz and they didn’t take me that long to grade. By not losing an entire period to a quiz, I was able to use the time before or the time after for a lesson or activity or review.

What didn’t work (and I won’t reinstate them)

  • Color coded excel gradebook. I found a PDF example online of a SBG excel gradebook that color coded the scores and would automatically tabulate when students had passed a skill twice.  I thought it was the coolest thing, took a good deal of time to make it. Yet I didn’t like having to write the scores down and transfer them to that document and then to the online gradebook.  This didn’t even make it past a few weeks.  Great concept, but too time consuming.
  • Allowing students to take more than two skills during a before school, during lunch or after school reassessment.  Since most come to reassess during lunch anyways, there isn’t enough time for students to take more than two skills.  I tried 1st and 2nd quarter with no limit, but then the end of lunch would come and I would hear “I didn’t finish, can I finish during class?” UGH…no way.

What I know I can improve on

  • Keeping track of which reassessments a student has taken. I have multiple reassessments for each skill, but when a student comes to reassess, I usually ask them if they’ve reassessed before and which skills.  I was *usually* able to provide them with the right skill quiz, but sometimes students did reassess the same skill quiz more than once.  Either I need to try Fawn’s Mailing labels for reassessments or something else.
  • Going over the quizzes when I hand them back.  Students sit in groups, so they learn at the beginning of the year that they need to dialog with each other, but when it comes to quizzes I find that they don’t like to say they didn’t understand a certain problem. I need to find a better way to make sure I am going over the questions on the skill quizzes when they are handed back.
  • Provided more written feedback on their quizzes.  I did a decent job during first quarter, but slowly, slowly it disappeared as the year went on.  I KNOW that it is important, but it was one of the easier things to let slide. No more! I plan to provide helpful, meaningful feedback on skill quizzes this year!
  • Explaining the system better to parents at the start of the year. I am the only one who grades this way in my building, so it is all new to parents whose “child has always gotten A’s in math”. I need to find a better way to explain. I’ve used Angry Birds as an example to help, but I need to improve it a lot.

What I’m still thinking about

  • Allowing those students that mastered ALL skills for the quarter to be exempt from taking my Quarter Skills Final. I allowed this during 3rd and 4th quarters this past year.  I thought there would be more students mastering, but it wasn’t as many students as I thought it would be (maybe 4 per class of 32) and why not reward them for working hard through the quarter and above and beyond class time? But I wonder if it defeats the purpose of the Quarter final to work on retention of material?
  • Do I even do a quarter final this year? (see below as well) The district curriculum committee has written unit tests for each unit, if I have to give those, I don’t see a huge quarter final being able to fit in.  Since this is a sophomore level course, the 8th grade students will take semester finals during 2nd and 4th quarter as it is.
  • Reassessment deadline. It’s usually the last Monday of the quarter for any skills during that quarter, but this sometimes causes students to wait until the last minute to master a skill from the beginning of the quarter.  If I have to give the district created Unit tests, maybe the deadline would be by the next unit test? Or two weeks after a unit test?  Just thinking aloud here…
  • Incorporating the Math Practices and 21st Century Skills into SBG, specifically the gradebook. I want to, I just don’t know how.  I tried 21st Century skills last year and those didn’t make it past the first quarter. What if the students graded themselves on the Math Practices and 21st Century Skills?  That would make it easier to keep track of AND allow discussion between the student and myself. Hmmmmm….
  • Meeting with each student at mid-quarter and end of the quarter to discuss together what grade they think they earned. I have read this in a few different places and I think it would open to some great discussions.  But will they be honest? And is this really preparing them for the rigors of high school? And where will I find the time?

What I’m at a loss on

  • Starting SBG over after 4 years of using it in Algebra and trying to apply it to Geometry.
  • Writing questions for Geometry. Writing the questions for Algebra and Pre-Algebra over the years was easy because I’ve been teaching it for so long I knew the types of questions I wanted them to know.  I want SBG to work in Geometry, but I am scared to mess it up because I don’t know the content well enough to be able to level questions and know what is really important enough to quiz on.
  • Creating a Skill Checklist for Geometry. Same reasons as above.  I have a bunch from online, but I also have to keep up with my district’s curriculum and common core.
  • The district curriculum committee that just finished the Geometry curriculum and rewriting it to Common Core has also created Unit tests.  How do I implement those tests with SBG? I haven’t given a unit or chapter test in years.  Do I give it and grade it as a test in the gradebook? Do I give it and grade it as separate skills?
  • Homework. I haven’t graded it in years, but I also haven’t checked it frequent enough to keep students doing it.  Just like a new post I read from An Old Math Dog Learning New Tricks, I don’t think practice should be a part of their grade, but I am starting to feel as though middle school students need a little more of a push in regards to the importance of practicing their math. Some students get that if they practice they will pass the skill quizzes, but others think they don’t have to do the practice to be successful. And the high school has mentioned that many new freshman struggle with getting assignments in on time (they come from 7 different middle schools).  Do I create a responsibility standard in the gradebook and use that for homework where a percentage done during the quarter equals a 2-1-0? Or like a comment on that same blog post, will my gradebook allow me to continue using weights when grading and make HW a 0% weight, so it doesn’t affect the grade, BUT it is visible in the gradebook for parents, students and myself to see their HW completion?

I really enjoyed putting this reflection together, especially since I will be essentially starting over with SBG next year with Geometry as my new teaching assignment.  This is really going to help me remember what I liked and what I want to change as I forge ahead into new territory!

Thanks again to Fawn for reflecting on her year of SBG and inspiring me to do the same!


My Summer To Do List

Phew! What a whirlwind the end of the school year was! I’ve been out just about two weeks now and already it feels like it has been months…I love that feeling!

I wanted to document my summer to do list to help me accomplish more of the things on it.  Sadly, due to changing the classes I am teaching and a few other things, I will be doing a lot of work this summer! No summer off for this teacher! (Does any teacher ever really have the summer off?) 🙂

Books To Read

  • Making Thinking Visible  – started, just need to finish
  • Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess – somehow I missed joining the Twitter discussion about this, but I am looking forward to reading it!
  • Embedded Formative Assessment byDylan Wiliam
  • Measurement by Lockhart
  • There were a few other titles flying around the blogs and twitter, but I can’t remember them, so this is my list!

Curriculum to work on

  • Geometry – I need to look at the new Geometry Common Core Curriculum that my district put together and see how it lays out in the year. Geometry is brand new to me and because I will be teaching gifted students (2 years advanced in math), I am thinking the classes should be more like an Honors course, rather than the regular curriculum.  I want to go more in depth, more discussions, more discourse, more debates.  I want to find resources to add to my lessons, things like 3 Acts, Algebra Review Warm-ups, Estimation, Cooperative Learning, etc.  I want this class to be challenging, interesting and fun and I feel the more I can find and prepare now the better off I will be.
  • US History – I get to teach 2 sections next year, which I am fine with (I’ve been teaching one section for the past 11 years). But I’ve wanted to change a few things for a while…shorten the Colonies Unit maybe with a project (We start with Colonies and go through present day.), which gives more time for WWI or WWII.  I want to figure out how to incorporate Current events better…I’ve tried and failed miserably in the past.  I want to incorporate cooperative learning activities, debates and interesting/fun projects, etc.  We do sort of plan history as a grade level and as a team, but we all still do our own thing.
  • Advisory – Advisory is going to be different this year since it is at the beginning of the day instead of in the middle of core time.  I want to loosely lay out a few of the units we have done as a grade level in the past and weave in a few other things.

Classroom things to work on
I have a new room next year too and we share rooms, so I want to figure out how to organize all my stuff.

  • Go through my MOUNDS of stuff and PURGE! I know I have things I can get rid of…I just need to do it. Why is this so hard for teachers to do?
  • Update some of my signs and stuff to say Geometry and not Algebra

Interactive Notebooks
I started last year and can’t imagine not using them in Geometry. I just need to find resources! I need to get as far ahead of myself as I can.

  • Find or create foldables for Geometry topics
  • Left Side ideas – I STUNK with this last year, improvement is necessary.
  • Vocabulary – going to create a glossary in the back of the ISN using Frayer models folded in half. I think we can fit 6 per page. This means I need to know AHEAD of time how many vocab words we will have. **Need to create/find a list of Geometry terms
  • US History ISN foldables and resources…I kind of want to do them in History too, just not sure this will make it off the to do list.

Standards Based Grading
I have done this for 4 years now and I believe in it. I am nervous and scared to figure out how to apply this to Geometry in my first year teaching it.  I do not know anything about pacing of curriculum or levels of questions, etc.

  • Find SBG Geometry resources online
  • Look at district teacher’s chapter/unit tests from previous years
  • I want to use the Common Core standards when labeling skills/standards, so I need to figure that out.

Dang.  I thought my list was long, but didn’t realize just how long until I typed it all out.  It feels really ambitious right now, but it all has to get done at some point…I have more time this summer than I will when school starts.

Wish me luck!