2015-2016 New Year Goals/Expectations

Being a teacher I find it easier and more fitting to set goals at the start of a new school year, it feels like a fresh start…the perfect time to revamp what I want to do, where I want to go and what type of teacher I want to be.

Classroom Environment

  • High-Fives Every Day – From #TMC15 (even though I couldn’t go) I heard a lot of people talking about Glenn Waddell and how he high-fived every student every day this past school year. Read his original post about it here. Then he posts later about how giving the high-fives changed the mindset of the students BEFORE they entered his class. BOOM! That’s it, I am all about Growth Mindset and Making It Stick…changing their mindset is important. This is a great way to build relationships and break down mindsets. I love it!
  • Continue Music Cues – I have used these for years since Matt Vaudrey & I connected about using music in the classroom. But last year I got away from it because my schedule was all over the place and hard to keep up with.  I think that going back to music will help keep me on track a bit better this year.
  • Warm-ups – I have plans to revamp my weekly warm-up sheet and change out a few things. I will keep the One Good Thing (one of my favorite parts of their weekly warm-up).  I want to include Which One Doesn’t Belong? along with a few other ideas I have floating around. I just need to solidify it all and get it done.
  • Create a Culture of Trust – so failure is seen as a learning tool and not something that is bad. This is hard, but I believe focusing on Growth Mindset and SHOWING students that we learn from failure will help create the environment I want.  This will be a part of my first few days plans.
  • Continue Good News Notes – I have always done these, but last year I was the most successful with them.  I decided to use email to communicate with parents about something good their student did that day. I tried to focus on mathematical thinking, perseverance, etc. but there were times that the good news was more generic or focused on choices and behavior.  Regardless, these notes were special for both my students and their parents and I need to make sure I make this a part of each week. Also for every hard/not happy email I send, I send a good news note. I need to keep track this year so I know who has gotten them and when.
  • Student Writing & Reflection – It is important that students take time to write and reflect about their own learning. I want to make this a more prominent part of my classroom. Not just something we do when we can.
  • Whiteboarding – I need to bring my large group sized white boards back to school and clean up all my individual white boards. I really NEED to spray paint the back of my individual white boards with black spray paint. I say this every year but never do it and I am reminded why I need to do it the first time we take out the white boards and a student tells me about the inappropriate picture drawn on the back of their board. This sounds like a great thing to do this weekend. 🙂
  • Bring my Ipevo doc camera – I love having students show their work presented to all students at the front and this also would help with ISN pages and note taking as well.
  • Find a way to keep the posters on my walls – They didn’t make it last year. I tried everything…I want this room to feel less bare and more homey for myself and my students, even though it is a computer lab and not just *my* classroom.


  • Go Digital – I am giving up my paper plan book this year (EEK!).  For the last few years I have designed and created my own plan book and loved the result, however this year I get to teach Geometry again and one of my FAVORITE people in the world that I worked with for 12 years is also teaching it, but she teaches at a different school within my district.  She is teaching it for the first time and in order to share in the most effective way, I made an online planner in Google Docs.  So far I like it because I can link to blog posts, activities and items in my Google drive. And I used the Table of Contents add-on so I can jump to the week I need. This will also force me to save things in my Google Drive and get them off my flash drive. 🙂 Here is a link to the document so you can copy it to your drive and modify it for what you need!
  • I am still keeping a paper monthly calendar so I can keep track of meetings and day to day items that pop up that are outside the norm of my school day.


  • Make my class websites useful for my students – This means that I update them with items that will help my students and even turn over the reflection and updates to the students.  I need to set aside daily time to sit down and do this.
  • Use Remind with my students and my swimmers – I love Remind and how it eases communication, I need to go back to using it more often.
  • Find a way to get a grant to use ReflexMath with my intervention students – This is a GREAT intervention fact practice website that has shown great growth in students from my school.  However, we do not have the funds to purchase it. Last year ReflexMath had grants they gave out, it doesn’t look like they will be doing that this year, so I need to find another way to get this for my students.


  • BLOG! – I blog for me and I need to remember that. I think having the reflection piece as part of my weekly planner will make blogging and reflecting on my days much easier. Anna Blinstein and I are going to encourage & remind each other to blog.
  • Tweet – I miss Twitter and need to find a way to continue to stay involved as an educator because it is important for my learning and growth
  • Continue to build my Essential Oils business – I am passionate about wellness and love the changes the oils have brought into my life. This is something that means a lot to me and I want to remember to build and foster the growth of my business.
  • Make time for hobbies – I find that come November I have forgotten all about my hobbies and doing the things that make me smile that aren’t work.  I need to make sure I have time to continue pursuing the things I love to do, like scrapbooking, refinishing furniture, decorating, etc.
  • Unplug from technology – As much as I love all things that blogging, tweeting and being involved online can bring, I need to remember to foster my face to face relationships and turn off the devices.  This is not easy to do as even my oily business is almost all online, but it is important to take a break and be present with those you love.

That’s a lot, but they are all things that are important to me. Magic is the day I find the balance between it all, but this is a good start, a good reminder of what I want to do.  I will check in at the end of each quarter and see where I am. 🙂

US History tied to Math

Being in the middle school, I have taught US History for 12 years and while I initially was not thrilled to teach it, it has become a subject that I love.  I love the discussions that my students can have because they feel that sharing an opinion is “safe”. They challenge each other, add to what someone else said and bring up good questions that make all of us think. They all want to participate and discussion tend to go longer than planned.  Why can’t this be a math classroom?  Why are students so afraid to do all of this in math? I see it even more now because I have the same group of students for History that I do for Geometry.  In History while evaluating primary sources, they toss out questions, ideas and opinions, but in Geometry when we look at different ways to solve a problem, they take it as it is and rarely challenge.  I have found they do much better in small groups, at their tables, sharing with each other.  I love using cooperative grouping in my classroom, but can’t they reach a point where sharing to a large group is okay?  I want them to treat math the same way…without fear of what they say, without judgment by their peers for the answer they share, because that is the math classroom I desire and they deserve.  Now how can I improve on this for the future?



#MTBoS30 – Day 1 – My “Secret” Passion

I enjoy blogging but usually need a little push to sit down and write a blog post…so when @sophgermain (Anne Schwartz) blogged about blogging for 30 days, I figured I could do that.  I WANTED to do a 180 blog, but that’s crazy…I couldn’t keep up, so I figure this has to be doable…right?

I have a secret passion that has grown immensely in the last 4 years when I bought a house and needed furniture and things for it.  My parents are antique dealers and I grew up going to estate sales, auctions, garage sales, toy shows, etc.  I enjoyed it then, but as a child couldn’t do much about it.  I like clean line well made furniture, stained glass, unique architectural items and unique art pieces.  I have a collection of Bill Olendorf prints of Chicago and some unique perspective state map prints of Wisconsin that are quite funny.  Recently I have enjoyed picking up poor sad pieces of furniture from the thrift store and painting them and/or turning them into something else.  I currently have 3 small projects in my garage and just this weekend picked up another one.  I can’t wait for the weather to get nicer so I can work on them in the garage!

My newest project is an old oak vanity missing the back piece and the mirror, which was fine with me.  I am going to cut the middle part out to separate the ends and create two bedside tables. They are the perfect height, the drawers all work and I love the clean lines! There are only three original handles, so I’m either going to use 3 different pairs of handles (each drawer pair will have a different handle) or I am going to use all glass knobs (which I love the look of).  My bedroom doesn’t have this dark wood…so it’s possible that I will be painting the oak white (Gasp!) or this will give me a reason to start changing up my bedroom colors.  I found this at a barn sale, bargained down the price to $45 and as you can see, was pretty determined to get it home.  Years of moving furniture with my dad, I know how to protect a car and tie down a trunk with my eyes closed. I didn’t have to go far and only on back country roads, so I was okay with this method of transportation. Side note: I may need to think about getting a bigger car to help fuel this passion of mine.



My newest project


A few previous projects:

This is a bookcase that now sits in my master bath and hold towels and baskets.


This is my FAVORITE recent project. My dad helped immensely with this one, but I’m a quick learner and had a lot of fun. I found it at a local estate sale in the barn being used as a tool bench and a mouse haven. The top even had laminate glued down with a metal edge…ick!


My second favorite project. I found the door at a barn sale for $4, asked the lady to keep it for a week until I could get my parent’s van to pick it up (no way my car could get that home). I knew I wanted it for a headboard and it was perfect because it had symmetrical panels (that’s the math teacher in me). It was also an old swinging door, so it didn’t have a door handle hole that needed to be filled or that would be visible.  The sides are from an old newel post that my parents had just laying around…we cut it in half to make the sides and added some oak around the bottom to bring it to the floor.  We left the wood as we found it, no sanding or painting of this.  Dad anchored it to the wall, should there be a tornado and the house gets leveled…I swear this would still be standing. (Notice the stained glass in the window…)


So that’s a little bit about me and my passion outside of school, my classroom and my students.  Again, my goal is to blog everyday…something about the day, something new about me, whatever comes to mind.



Assessment Reflection & End of Quarter Reflection

I had planned to blog about my End of Quarter Student Reflection, since they just completed them and I have been reading through them. Then yesterday I jumped in a Twitter conversation between David (@delta_dc) and Julie (@jreulbach) that started with David’s question “Is it okay if a student is surprised by his or her grade on an assessment?”. There were a lot of ideas shared and when I jumped in I mentioned my during assessment reflection that I have used in the past.  So now this post will cover both reflections. 🙂

Assessment Reflection
I have used this in the past (not yet this year) to help students slow down a bit during assessments and to help identify where they went wrong and why.  I’ve had it for years and created it with teachers at my school, but don’t know if it originally came from somewhere online (if it’s similar to something of yours, please let me know so I can properly cite!).

I’ve tried to upload the Word Doc file instead of the PDF to Scribd for you. However, it then formats funny and doesn’t use my fun/cute fonts.  🙂 I am sure you can figure it out.

End of Quarter Reflection
I had the students respond to a survey on Quarter 1, which included questions about my teaching, our activities, the ISN, SBG, etc.  I have compiled those results for an in class discussion on Tuesday so we can make changes, clarify misconceptions and move forward in our planning for Quarter 2.  I want my students to feel a part of the decisions I made and the things we do in the classroom.

However, the reflection I am talking about here wasn’t that one, instead I created a reflection for students to reflect on themselves as a student for Quarter 1.  I asked them to reflect on their mastery of skills, their participation as a group member and then write their own comment about themselves as a student for first quarter; similar to what a teacher might write about them.  This was a GREAT reflection to share during parent teacher conferences this week and students were honest, open and striving to improve in their performance during second quarter.

Overall, we did a lot of reflection at the end of the quarter. Students even reflected on the ISN AND I had parents reflect on the ISN; that was awesome to read, the good and the bad about the ISN. 🙂 I like taking the time for students to reflect AND taking the time on my end to read and respond to all of it.  It helps me become a better teacher, to reach the students I have THIS YEAR and it helps them learn that reflection is important, especially when you take something from it and work to improve or change.

Explore the MTBoS Mission #2

Continuing in the MTBoS Missions…Mission #2 was all about Twitter.  (I am trying to catch up on the blog posts I should have been writing & promised people I would write, sorry for blowing up your reader.) Here is my Mission #2 reflection prompt:

  • If you’re an experienced Twitter user, describe and reflect upon how you tend to use it.

I wouldn’t say I am experienced, I still think I am pretty new to the Twitter world, but I can’t imagine my educational life without it.  I joined last year during the Math Blogger Initiation because I figured when I started my blog, I might as well start Twitter too.  Little did I know what I was getting myself into.  IT IS FLIPPING AMAZING!!!! It’s my own personal PLN that I can call on at any hour of the day or night and get a response.  It is (now) a mix of people that I have met in person at #TMC13, people I have met during other math conferences, people I have yet to meet and people I secretly stalk.  It is funny, challenging and awesome at all hours of the day.  It is where I start my Google search for a new activity or lesson and where I go when I need suggestions on my own activity or lesson.  It is a group of people that keep growing, creating and sharing together.

I am finding it even more useful this year because there is no one else in my building that teaches Geometry, so I don’t have people I can ask in my office.  I find I am leaning on my Twitter PLN to answer my questions or help me make sense of things shared with me that I don’t quite agree with. (Old school grading mentality from HS teachers)  We have made foldables together (@msrubinteach), we have shared skill lists (@MTchirps), we have presented together (@borschtwithanna), we have shared music routines (@mrvaudrey), we have laughed about the non-stickiness of post-its (@chrisrime) and many others that I am sure I am forgetting to mention.

Twitter is my news, my TV, my drama and my entertainment for the day. Sometimes it’s silly and funny and other times it’s thought provoking and opinionated, but either way it keeps me on my toes and always wanting to learn more, to be better and to continue to challenge myself to be the best I can be. If you haven’t joined or are on the fence about joining…DO IT!! Find educational hashtags to follow and just watch what happens.  You will be amazed and find that you want to jump in.

Twitter is my online PLN and my daily, weekly, monthly math conference. I have learned more since I started lurking and just reading blogs (since sometime in 2007) and then starting my own and jumping on twitter than I have in any of the time prior to that. My educational landscape has changed for the better because of my involvement on twitter.


Explore the MToBS Mission #1

I am late to the game…not because I forgot but because I just got SO FAR behind in grading (need to stop assigning!!), preparing and getting my presentation ready for ICTM. And I couldn’t decide what to write about, sometimes I can be so indecisive!

According to the Explore MToBS blog post for this mission, we are to choose between two blog topic options:

You are going to write a blogpost on one of the following two prompts.

  • What is one of your favorite open-ended/rich problems?  How do you use it in your classroom? (If you have a problem you have been wanting to try, but haven’t had the courage or opportunity to try it out yet, write about how you would or will use the problem in your classroom.)

  • What is one thing that happens in your classroom that makes it distinctly yours? It can be something you do that is unique in your school… It can be something more amorphous… However you want to interpret the question! Whatever!

I want to write about one thing that makes my classroom distinctly mine, yet I don’t really know what that is. I feel like I borrow and take so much from my online PLC and my real life PLC that I am not sure what is really mine anymore.  That isn’t a bad thing, just that I wasn’t sure what made my class different from other classrooms.  So I took @JustinAion’s idea and asked my students. I sent a Remind101 text with a link to the Google Form survey and waited (not very) patiently for the results to come in.

Here are the results in a Wordle from 56 of my 120 students.

I really enjoyed reading their responses. There are a few misconceptions that I need to clarify “we skip around the book, like 3.1 and then 6.5”, but that’s the curriculum not me & we don’t even use the book. Some feel that I rush through lessons so we do more activities and other feel like we spend too much time on lessons and don’t do enough activities. 🙂 Some of them don’t quite grasp the idea of the ISN or see its usefulness, that is definitely something I need to work on if that is the case! One comment really stuck with me “She uses worksheets and the “ISN” to teach new lessons. I dislike the way she teaches for math using worksheets.” because I don’t use worksheets. In fact today was the second day they received a homework assignment that was a worksheet.  I am not quite sure what this comment means, except that I need to clarify and change something about the perception of worksheets. I was also able to see that my prediction was correct for a few comments about wanting to use the textbook (we DON’T have one to use!)…they have only ever learned from a textbook, so not having one and creating our own is a huge change for them.

They identified the ISN as the thing that makes my class unique, along with Standards Based Grading (Skill Assessments) and the MathXL online homework.  This was a great reflection for me as we are coming to the end of a quarter and I usually give them an End of Quarter survey about class. I plan to change a few of the questions before giving it to them. We spend the day after the survey, talking about changes we want to make to the class and clarifying things. I love giving the students a voice in the classroom environment! If you want to read all of the comments you can click here:  Makesdifferent



#Made4Math: Weekly Warm-up Sheet


I know I’ve been quiet and haven’t blogged since school started. I have quite a few blog posts in draft form, but haven’t gotten around to finishing them. This week…promise! I was able to squeeze this one out because I needed this sheet for my classes this week. Just know that the year has started very well and I am loving my classes and students!

#1 – I always start doing warm-ups at the beginning of each year totally gung ho and then by the middle of the year they are non-existent.  It just seems to be something that is hard to keep up with preparing & stressing to students to get started when they come in, yadda yadda.  I have about 43 minutes in class, so taking 5 minutes to do a warm-up is about all I can give, but that will allow me to take attendance and do other house keeping things during that time.

#2 – Since we use ISN’s, I was struggling to figure out where to even put the warm-up problems.  I originally wanted to incorporate a page or section for them, but realized that wouldn’t work. I thought about creating a pocket to hold them, but there’s no way it would hold an entire quarter’s worth of paper. I knew I wanted a weekly sheet, but didn’t know what I was going to do with it.

I emailed my thoughts and questions to @msrubinteach (http://everybodyisageniusblog.blogspot.com), who was great enough to respond with a few thoughts of her own.  One of which I am running with…they hold onto the currently weekly sheet, but after I give back the one from the previous week, they will keep it in their Skill Folder (Portfolio).  DUH…why couldn’t I think of that?  But this is what I LOVE about the MTBoS, being on Twitter and blogging…I have made connections that allow me to get another set of eyes or another opinion on something I am trying to work out. And they are honest and helpful opinions that help me and in turn benefit my students. Anyways…then at the end of the quarter, we pull together all skill quizzes, checklist and warm-up sheets and staple them together. This keeps everything together for the quarter and provides them with a great study guide and practice for the semester final.

I plan to collect them each Friday, BUT they are NOT a grade. I will collect them to check a few things and make sure they are on the right track, but most importantly I will collect them to read their weekly reflection and to write feedback to them on something from that week.

First, the original form layout came from @kklaster (http://nolearninglimits.blogspot.com/2012/07/made4math-stamp-sheets.html). She shared parts of it during our Embedded Formative Assessment book chat (#efamath) this summer and I knew I wanted to incorporate the Weekly Reflection piece. I thought using the shapes reflection in Geometry would be a fun touch. I also modified her form so it was double sided for one week, instead of single sided.

Then I worked to set up my days. I had this discussion with @MrVaudrey (http://mrvaudrey.com/) at the start of August. He tweeted out his weekly warm-up thoughts and I liked his wording of Get the Goof and have borrowed it.

Mental Monday – Using Estimation180.com a la @mr_stadel
Tough Patterns Tuesday – Using visualpatterns.org a la @fawnpnguyen
What We’ve Been Doing Wednesday – Geometry problem relative to what we are currently learning
Get the Goof Thursday – Error Analysis questions covering both Algebra & Geometry topics
Flashback Friday – Algebra review
Weekly Reflection – Completed on Friday

I also incorporate music cues into my classroom and have enjoyed @MrVaudrey’s blog posts about his class routine and music cues. I use music to keep us on time and as a cue to the student to start or end something; I really enjoy not talking  as much and not directing as much. I am shooting for 5 minutes for the warm-up from start to finish, but we will see how it goes.  I am going to test it out this week and get an average time to then set up my music cues for our warm-ups.

When putting together the warm-up sheet, I used aspects of the Estimation180.com handout, visualpatterns.org handout and a part of an older 3 Acts handout.

The problems will be projected at the front of the room. I usually project the daily agenda, so I am going to have to modify the plan somehow. Either write the agenda on the whiteboard or split the agenda and the problem on one screen. Any suggestions?

I will start this week, we will see how it goes!