Google Forms Gets Even Better

This August, I’m participating in a monthly blog challenge called Blaugust. To see the list of participating blogs, click on the logo below. Please cheer on our participants with either a tweet or a comment on their blog. It can be hard to blog on a daily (or even regular) schedule! 🙂

If you want to join in the blogging fun, it’s not too late!  Go HERE to sign up! 🙂 And here are the directions and some awesome helpful prompts if you need something to help you blog!
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I LOVE Google Forms! I use them all of the time for a variety of reasons- both education related, with my swim team and for personal use. They are such a super easy way to collect info into a spreadsheet super quickly!

This may not be NEW news for many of you as Google introduced it at the end of June, but for those of us on summer break who haven’t opened Google forms to use in a classroom all summer, it is new and exciting information.

QUIZZES!
This new feature will allow auto-grading multiple choice and checkbox questions which can give INSTANT feedback to students and allow teachers to see if they need to spend more time on a topic. SO STINKIN’ AWESOME! I have used the Flubaroo add-on before to do this same thing, but I always found it glitchy and a little hard to manage. I have already played around with this and it is SO easy to use.
Creating a quiz is super simple, here’s how:
  • Go to your Google Drive.
  • Click on New and then choose form.
  • In the upper right corner, click Settings in the top right corner and choose QUIZZES.
  • Next to “Make this a quiz” click the on button to make the form a quiz.
  • At this point you have a few options you can choose to turn on or off,
    • Release the grade immediately after each submission or do not release the grade
    • Change what students can see, Missed Questions, Correct Answer and Point Values.
  • Click Save to save your chosen settings.
After that you just start building your quiz.  You can make an answer key for multiple choice, checkbox, or drop-down questions.
  1. To add a new question, click Add.
  2. Fill out your question and answers.
  3. In the bottom left, click ANSWER KEY.
  4. In the top right of the question, choose how many points the question is worth.
But wait…there’s MORE! You can even add explanations to answers- including links, videos, or websites so students get immediate feedback!
To add feedback, just click on Answer Key and then on Add Answer Feedback.
Type feedback for both INCORRECT ANSWERS and CORRECT ANSWERS.
You can find out even more about creating a quiz with Google Forms HERE.
Way to go Google- YOU ROCK!

 

Never Ending To Do List

The first day for students is Thursday; we just had two days of teacher institute covering your normal back to school things and a handful of brand new things.  Tomorrow is teacher work day, the best day in our calendar, it allows teachers to do final prep, digest the previous two days, plan with other teachers and basically have a day to do what we need to do before we meet our new batch of students on Thursday.  It’s like the perfect built in mental health day so we can start the year fresh and ready to go.

I am feeling a little overwhelmed, which is normal for the first week of school.  I have all these different ideas on how I want to start the year, that I tend to put off the actual planning because it’s so hard to choose.  I have things written down, but not finalized.  I am going to try and do a bit of it tonight.

My classroom is bare. It was repainted this summer with shiny paint, so nothing holds up the posters.  Last year I tried command strips, hot glue, packing tape and finally gave into duct tape.  We have been told duct tape CAN NOT be used at all, in any manner.  I don’t know how to get things to stick on my walls. Someone already tried the Marvelous Tape and it fell down within two hours (she ended up using duct tape, but SHHHH don’t tell). The posters aren’t even official heavyweight paper posters, they are printed on printer paper and laminated because I tend to make my own or find them for free on the internet.

I am feeling like I have a LONG list of things to do and don’t know where to start.  Bonus is that I won’t see my 6th grade students for the first time until Monday, but Geometry starts right away on Thursday.  I will spend the morning tomorrow planning with other teachers that I co-teach with (7th grade and 8th grade), so not all of my teacher work day is for me. 🙂

This too shall pass, I know it will and I will be excited once I get to meet my kids!

Day 4 – Professional Learning Conversations & ISN’s

Yesterday I found out about a meeting I needed to attend today that all of the interventionists/specialists from the district were invited to attend. It is the first of four professional learning opportunities with Dr. Pam Rosa. Here is what I found out about her online, prior to attending the meeting: Dr. Pamela Rosa, a certified Danielson Facilitator, and a consultant of educational initiatives, specializes in teacher and principal evaluation, professional growth processes, as well as mentoring and coaching. She has worked as a teacher, literacy coach, principal, district administrator, and state board consultant. Her educational leadership and policy degrees are from Illinois State University and University of Illinois.  I wasn’t sure what the focus of the meeting was going to be and because I only met my 6th grade students yesterday, I decided to attend the meeting for the morning portion and come back to teach my students.

We received the book Learning-Focused Supervision – Developing Professional Expertise in Standards-Driven Systems.  Dr. Rosa talked about how the title should really be Learning-focused Conversations because Supervision makes it sound like we are higher than the teachers we are working with, which isn’t true.  We had a lot of great conversations in our groups and I am excited for the next three meetings to continue the discussions.  It sounds as though my district is trying to move towards having the interventionists also be “coaches” to work with teachers as well as the students we are working with.  I LOVE this idea and it is something I think I will be good at, however I thing they should be separate positions.  If the interventionists are really there to assist struggling learners across all grades in their school, then there is little time to really focus on helping teachers in an effective way.  This isn’t finalized, just an idea I think right now, but I will be interested to see how it all pans out.

Today in 6th grade students completed a reflection on yesterday’s Pentomino activity for their warm-up and were given their composition notebooks for their Interactive Student Notebooks.  Times have changed and students are not issued textbooks anymore because our math resources are fully digital.  However, we still need to practice good note taking and have a place to show our work and practice, so the students and I will be creating our own textbook this year, called the Interactive Student Notebook (ISN). I have used ISN’s for a few years now and love them.  It will be different working on it along side the digital math program, but I am sure we will find a process that works well.

I collected their homework from the night before which was the pennant about themselves. I had two students not color or decorate even though the typed directions said to and I had one student who didn’t complete it. When I asked him why and had him complete my missing homework form, he stated he had soccer practice and couldn’t do it.  Seeing as though it was the FIRST assignment that required them to tell me a bit about themselves, I was a little surprised…I could expect that from an 8th grade student, but I wasn’t expecting it from a 6th grade student.  I had a conversation with him about making sure he brought it on Tuesday and I debated the rest of the day whether I should use this as a first contact with his parents.  I decided to let it go and see what he brought on Tuesday.

They completed their “I Notice/I Wonder” again for Friday and some of the things they wrote were adorable and insightful:
I Notice
“That I am making new friends.” (I forget that the 6th graders come to us from 3 different elementary schools.)
“You are a really fun teacher.” (YIPPEE!)
“That you wrote back from yesterday.” (I heard them talking when they sat down that I wrote them back. I am glad they liked it.)
“Everything is organized! I love that!” (Awesome…a girl after my own heart!)
“There is a basket that looks like a basketball hoop.” (Yep, bought it last year for Trashketball!)
“You play music everyday for math.” (Yes and I need to get more music to play. I use an app called Seconds to organize music with breaks and this idea came from Mr. Vaudrey and I have LOVED it since I started using them! I think it will work better with the 6th graders too.)

I Wonder
“When we will have a party.” (Hmmm…this is middle school, no parties. Unless we are celebrating Math!)
“If I’ll ever memorize my passwords.” (Yikes, we even tried to make them easier for students by having most logins & passwords for multiple sites be the same. But this is all new for the 6th grade students.)
“If Math will always be this fun.” (ABSOLUTELY!)
“What digits is about.” (I need to explain this more. It is our districts adopted digital resource for our curriculum.)
“How many pages we will use in the composition notebook.” (All of the pages! Actually, good question, close to all I think.)

ISN Pages – I will link to my printable pages or where I found the pages.
Title Page – Math Coloring Page
Author Pages (in Pictures & in Words – Sarah Hagan’s Math Autobiography Foldable)
Study Buddies & Clock Partners
Table of Contents (TOC booklet – Shelli’s great one page TOC)

They seemed excited about the ISN and I was reminded that I need to get more tape dispensers and glue sticks.  The materials I had from last year didn’t quite make it. I purchased new materials bins with lids that don’t come off, but they are smaller, so I think the tape and glue sticks will have to stay somewhere else.

I am looking forward to a nice long Labor Day weekend.  I have planning to do for next week, but I will probably save it for Monday!

 

Day 2 – The walls

This is what I saw when I entered my classroom this morning:

photo 3

Four and a half Math Practice posters fell down in addition to a bubble and a number. I was more than annoyed.  I even used expensive Command Strips because they worked well in previous years. It should be noted that they changed from flat paint to semi-gloss or eggshell so nothing sticks to the walls, which meant I had a piece of sandpaper and sanded the shine off the walls in each place I planned to use a command strip.  Still didn’t work.  I cleaned up the posters before I headed to my 7th grade co-taught class.

Today in 7th grade it was going over the rules and expectations of the class  I agree that the rules are important, but I like starting off with something mathy that gets students talking and working together.  I feel like you can address the rules as needed; however that is my style and it not everyone’s style of teaching.  After hanging out and helping out in that class, I went to my office and complained about my posters and someone suggested hot glue and even provided me with their glue gun! Downstairs I went, plugged it in and worked on my table signs. I took the table signs from one of my favorite sites, Technology Rocks Seriously, and turned them into circles to sit in the center of the fans.

photo 4

I also worked on the three bulletin boards on the other side of the room while it heated up.  The middle bulletin board is going to be Sarah Hagan’s Growth Mindset posters. Still clueless on the other two…

photo 5

In my 8th grade co-taught class, we had an activity where the students worked in their groups to come up with some BYOT rules.  They needed to illustrate the rule and explain it.  Then we switched papers between groups so they could see what others said, we had a class discussion and came to a consensus on the rules.  It was fun and interesting to see the student dynamics in that class.

After two days of working in my room, with no students of my own, no papers to prepare, no planning to be done, I have to say I was a little sad. It is such a change from what I know and have done.  It’s such a change from everything that I feel identifies me, but I know this is something that is going to challenge me, change me and allow me to grow as an educator and I can’t wait to get started!

Day 1 – New Experiences

Today marked the start of my 15th year of teaching and the first day in my teaching career where I didn’t have any students to welcome.  You may remember my job change in the spring to be a Math Specialist at one of the middle schools in my district.  (This is also called a Math Interventionist in my district.)  So because of the new position, I do not directly work on just one team teaching math like my previous 14 years.  I will be working with all of the math teachers and students at 6th, 7th and 8th grades in my building.  My main goal is to help math teachers identify students who are below grade level and either provide interventions through a pull out or by pushing into the classroom (in more of a co-teaching model).  I absolutely LOVE all of the math teachers at my school; I have worked with many of them through the years on various different committees, so that brings comfort to my new situation.

I will also teach one section of 6th Grade CC Math because they like the classes in 6th grade to have a lower teacher: student ratio, which I think is a great idea.  I will have 16 students in that class, but because we follow the middle school model, they will be staying on their team for 6th grade things for the first two days of school.  I get to meet them on Thursday!

I went to my 7th and 8th grade co-taught classes today to introduce myself quickly, but again they were doing a lot of welcome back to school stuff that wasn’t math related. So I hung out in my room (aka The MALL – Mathematics Assistance & Learning Lab) and hung posters on the VERY bare walls. My room is really the math computer lab, so you will see 29 computers in my pictures. I have tables in the middle of the room for my 6th grade class though.

Since I am BIG on the Math Practices and I had  a lot of wall to cover, I decided to make my Math Practices fit most of the wall. I created the Good Mathematicians header in powerpoint and found a legible large font (Janda Curly Girl) and fit it to the slides, printed on cardstock and laminated it. I had the large Math Practices posters already and I used Sarah Rubin’s Kid Friendly MP bubbles (colored coded to match the posters) and created the numbers to label the practices.  Thanks to @mathequalslove, @msrubinteach & @algebrasfriend for their helpful links and suggestions!  I love how it turned out!

photo 1 photo 2

Change

Forced change is never easy…you don’t know it’s coming and likely aren’t very prepared. It throws you off your normal day to day routine and leaves you in a mess of jumbled thoughts of what ifs.  Last week I found out that I was being involuntarily transferred to another school in my district to be a Math Interventionist. This wasn’t a job I applied for, or even wanted, but yet there it was and it’s now mine. I don’t even know what the job entails or what this position does at the middle school level, but I hope to find out soon! This happened while I was at NCTM in NOLA, which helped to keep the reality at bay for a bit (Thank you Twitter friends for your distraction!). One of my best friends was texting me, checking in on me and stated a few times that I was going through the grieving process. That made me think and you know what? I was and thus this post was born.

Stage 1 – Denial & Isolation

  • See the story ACTUALLY starts with me being assigned to teach Spanish and Math at a completely different middle school in my district, which drove me straight to denial.  I do happen to have a decent amount of credits in Spanish from college, but I haven’t spoken Spanish since around 1998.  There is NO way anyone wants me to teach Spanish and it isn’t listed on my teaching certificate.  The denial part comes in because I emailed my principal and told him I couldn’t teach Spanish and that kind of put me in a holding pattern while he checked it out.  I was hoping this was a bad dream and by telling them this info…it would all go back to normal.  That was not the case, they just made a spot for me in another middle school as an interventionist. Being in NOLA kept me isolated from my colleagues and hashing the whole situation out, that might have been a blessing in disguise.

Stage 2 – Anger

  • Anyone who saw me when I found out all of this…you deserve a huge hug from me.  I was a mess…12+ years in the same school, with the same people, my best friends and now I was being moved? I was devastated and so angry, honestly I am not even sure that describes it. I am still upset because I love what I am teaching this year and really wanted a crack at it next year to improve my teaching and the learning of my students.

Stage 3 – Bargaining

  • My desire to regain control of my situation drove me (& my friends) to the “If only” and “What ifs”. Oh the wild and crazy things we have come up with! It’s nice to dream and wish things would go back to the only reality I’ve known for 12+ years.

Stage 4 – Depression

  • Honestly, I’ve skipped this step for now, but I know it’s coming in full force in the future.  I am sad every day as I pull into the parking lot and being in front of my classroom, I have to stop myself from continuously thinking “This is my last quarter with my own students.”. If I don’t stop myself, I will go crazy!

Stage 5 – Acceptance

  • I think I hit this stage when I called my parents to tell them and then asked my dad to help me build shelves in my garage for all of my teaching stuff. From what I do know about the position, I do not have a classroom or my own students, so I won’t need 95% of the things I have.  This will afford me the opportunity to purge items which will be nice.  I have also accepted that I won’t be back at my current school regardless of what happens from here on out.  I am so afraid of leaving my friends, two of my very best friends and losing touch.  I do know it’s within my control, but all teachers know we lose ourselves in the middle of the year and it’s so hard to keep up with what you are doing, let alone what your friends are doing.

Change…it’s not easy, but I am going to put myself out there and try and take control of my change.  There is an amazing opportunity to teach at a new STEM partnership school in my district, so I am applying for that.  In addition there is a position at the district office that I will applying to as well.  Now that I have accepted change, I am excited about the opportunities that exist and where I will end up.

I had to update my resume and I wanted to jazz it up while keeping it clean and detailed. A big thank you to someone who shared their recent cover letter and resume with me, I don’t want to share names because I am not sure it was a public thing…but seeing someone’s wording for recent contributions made it easier for me to update my stuff.  Last time it was updated was 2009 and it was stark and boring. So I used powerpoint to create the file below.  I have obviously removed personal information, but wanted to share anyways.  🙂

Note taking, no textbooks & ISN’s, how does it all fit together?

*WARNING* This is a longer than planned post and involved…I am asking for ideas and help…proceed with caution! 🙂

At the end of each quarter since I started teaching 14 years ago, I have had my students complete a survey/reflection on the quarter. It’s evolved and improved over the years, but the idea was the same…I wanted to know what they thought about my teaching, our classroom, the activities we did and anything else they wanted to share.  I used to just read them and reflect on my own; I would come in the next quarter with ideas, some changes based upon the survey and some that I already knew I wanted to do. I would clarify misconceptions and provide more reasons and examples as to why certain things were done.  I always found them valuable, sometimes in a kick in my backside type of way and sometimes reassurance that what I was doing was working.  I found students to be honest, sometimes more than I expected, but I grew as a teacher from it.  In the last handful of years after I have given the survey, I crunch the data, toss some in graphical format and share it WITH the students.  I have asked them to review the graphs, the information shared and to tell me what it means. I share the comments they write and we talk about it together as a class.  I want them to know that I value their opinions, that I take them seriously and I am always striving to make our classroom better.  It has been within this type of situation that students have mentioned they feel heard, valued and that they have a say in the classroom.  Do I change everything? No, but we have honest discussions about it; I consider it and I might even poll them again on a specific topic to help make a decision.  I still toss in a few changes that I knew I wanted to make, but overall it comes from them.

It is in this situation where I am stuck currently.  I gave the quarter 1 survey (google doc this time around), I knew they completed it because I had looked at a few of the responses.  Today’s class was the day we were going to talk about the results, so last night I finally opened them up and read through them.  I will skip over the love they have for the class and the way we do things, their love for SBG and their love/hate relationship with cooperative learning for this post and yet focus on another aspect dear to my heart, the Interactive Notebook.

I had a section about the notebook asking questions about it, but it was in the very last box titled “Anything else you want to share?” where some *unprompted* shared their extreme love and/or hate of the interactive notebook.  The dislike for it took me by surprise, not one peep from my lovelies about them in a bad way since day 1, NOT ONE. Yet here they were (to clarify THEY = the 15 students who dislike the ISN or parts of it out of the 114 students that I use them with), sharing without any fear or filter, which is what I was looking for.

Here are the negative comments: (only sharing these because I want to focus on how to make this better)

  • I would rather work in a class where some students teach others than tape things into our notebook.
  • isn is really bad. its a waste of time. parents will agree
  • I really think we shouldn’t grade ISNs because nobody really graded our notes in past grades. Previous teachers have graded what comes out of our notes and understanding such as tests and quizzes. At first, I was really enthusiastic about having everything organized in the ISN… but as I thought about it, i realized that I wasn’t learning much from the foldables and coloring. I’m just a type of person that really likes to take my own notes in my own method. I don’t think we should have to worry about decorating our notebooks and having things taped in and secured on top of so much other work that we have to do. This has nothing to do with your teaching because I feel like I’m able to understand what you teach me better than I have with other teachers in the past but I just feel like we shouldn’t have our ISNs graded. Again, this is just my opinion and you don’t have to listen to this by any means, but I just wanted to let you know! Thank you, and I can’t wait for a great rest of the year!
  • I really dont prefer the ISN and really like using my own notebook that is not so strictly scheduled and my own notebook helps me alot more for studying
  • I find it completely ridiculous that the ISN requires you to color the left hand side pages.
  • I really don’t think the ISN is helping me.
  • I enjoy class, but sometimes the ISN can be a lot to keep track of.
  • I like working with groups but also on my own. I am not a huge fan over the ISN-when notes are not my own, I find them more difficult to understand. It also takes away time that we could use to practice concepts and understand them well. I like the traditional way of taking notes.
  • I think that to learn material well, the ISN isnt totally helping bc it is very easy to slack off. a better way would be to use a textbook and do worksheets.
  • I would like to bring up the topic that the ISN wastes valuable time where we could be learning but instead we are taping I know many who agree and I don’t know how many were willing to say it on the survey but I would prefer to use an actual textbook to help me with practice problems, and I do know I can get practice problems in other places but i prefer to get them in a textbook.
  • I like taking my own notes instead of taping in notes in the ISN because I understand the lesson more if i write my own notes. I don’t like the ISN at all. The ISN doesn’t help me with anything because everybody’s notes are the same. I study better with the notes I write and I think the ISN is useless. I would rather have my own notebook than the ISN.
  • I don’t really like the ISN because its a lot of gluing and cutting. Also, I have to pay more attention to the ISN then learning material because I know its a grade.
  • I don’t enjoy using the ISN. It is not really my style.
  • I don’t think the ISN is very helpful
  • I enjoy math class a lot, but I wish to use the textbook more.  the ISN is a helpful study tool, but sometimes feels as if the ISN is like a scrapbook! 🙂 but overall, I am very happy as to how math class is going and I am looking forward to the rest of a wonderful school year!

I do find it cute that they share their dislike for the ISN and their excitement over the rest of the year within two sentences…I love middle school!

Before I went crazy with things spinning in my own mind, I turned to twitter to share it with other minds to help me:

My mind was racing and I knew that I wanted to use the student comments to clarify a few things, but that more importantly I had students that wanted a different way to take notes.  What was I going to do? And my online PLN responded with ideas and questions of their own.  It was Megan (@mgolding) who suggested a blog post and discussion, so blame her for this long post! 🙂

Things to note:

  • This is a small amount of students who do not like the interactive notebook, the rest love it and have said so in the survey, in person and even after today’s in class discussion.
  • We DO NOT have textbooks, so learning from a textbook and just doing worksheets, isn’t going to happen.  We have an online version and a handful of books in the classroom, but our curriculum jumps around the “book” anyways.  It is not a useful resource for the students or myself. This is a HUGE change from last year for the students.
  • These students really do prefer “traditional” teaching and learning. This is what they have known, this might be all they have known and I have hit them with cooperative grouping, open ended tasks, SBG and Interactive notebooks.
  • These students are good students, many have their own way of organizing and taking notes already, which is different from any of my previous classes of students.
  • These students are used to learning FROM a textbook, like “read this, look at the examples and figure out the 20 homework problems”. Not much in regards to shared notes or class discussion. They are used to creating their own notes from going through the material on their own.
  • The cutting & taping (which seems to be a big issue) takes 5 minutes, maybe 10 on a long day…BUT it happens while they are doing their warm-up or something else.
  • Every parent that I have spoken with or heard from loves the class and the notebooks. The parent reflections on the notebooks for quarter 1 back this up.
  • This year my goal was to improve the left side of the ISN, which has happened, but that is where the “coloring” comes in…working on the creative side of the brain.
  • I have told them the ISN is their textbook, their reference.  It contains notes, examples and practice problems.  And it contains their reflection on their notes.
  • I have dabbled in the flipped classroom where they take notes at home while watching a short video and we practice all day the next day in class.

The issues

  • I am dealing with “traditional” learning students. The ISN might not be the whole issue, I think some of it is the way I am asking them to learn and how it is so different from what they know. How do I make it easier?  Example: they told me today they want me to create powerpoints with screen shots of the book and go through the examples in the book with them. 🙂 Ummm….no that sounds awful, there has to be a better way.
  • Some students want to take their own notes (which again I find interesting because they currently take their own notes, just happens to be in foldable format provided by me). How do I incorporate this desire into the classroom?

What I am considering:

  • Giving up on the coloring.  All classes asked for this, easy to give up…no big deal. But I can still ask them to reflect.
  • Allowing students who want to take their own notes to do so, but I might ask them to conference with me about it first so we can be on the same page with our expectations.  Rather than let them jump into a whole new format, I think I am going to ask that they take them in the ISN, but can do so however they want.
  • Teaching students how to use notes to study, this seems to be an issue this year, not knowing HOW to prepare for math tests and how to use their notes. Is it different because it is Geometry? Last year my students loved their ISN’s  in Algebra and 8th CCSS and used them all of the time. The students above claim it isn’t useful, is that because they don’t know how to use it, how to find things within their notes? This discussion also came up during our Twitter conversation.

I need your help, your suggestions, your ideas.  I want to improve my classroom for second quarter and I want to help my students understand the importance of notes in any format.  Is the current trend to change  classroom dynamics to being student centered removing the aspect of notetaking? How do you disseminate important information to your students?  Do your students keep a notebook? binder? etc? As we move to classrooms without hard copy textbooks, what does that mean for notetaking? How do you help the “traditional” students become comfortable in a student centered classroom?

If you made it this far, WAY TO GO! Thanks for hanging with me!