Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Plan to Keep Your New "School" Year Resolutions

Soon, or perhaps already, a new school year will begin.  With the start of a new school year, we all make "resolutions" about what we will do different, what we will change, new ideas that we will implement and how we hope our year will go.  Unfortunately, unless you have a plan, like the New Year Resolutions we make on January 1st, these will quickly go to the wayside, discarded and wasted.  So this year, I am going into the year not only with resolutions but also a plan as to how to implement them! 

Resolution One:  Establish a classroom environment that encourages classroom discussions.
Getting to Know You
Why?:  One of the biggest challenges I encounter at the secondary level is that students don't want to participate in the classroom discussions because they don't want to be wrong!  In order to combat this I need to first help students to feel that is a) safe to talk, b) safe to disagree and c) safe to be wrong. 
Plan:  My plan is two-fold.  First we are going to establish together a set of classroom discussion expectations and consequences.  By creating them together, the students feel that their voice is being heard AND they start participating in the discussion without even knowing it!  The second part of my plan involves getting to know my students and having them get to know each other.  I purchased a fantastic resource (Getting To Know You - 3 activities to help you get to know a new class) from Stacey Lloyd on TeachersPayTeachers that includes three different getting to know you activities. One is a one page page that the students fill-out on themselves, the second is a reflection on the previous year and the third is a peer interview!  Perfect for starting a new year off showing the students that you truly do care about them!

Discussion Starters
Resolution Two:  Once I get the students to participate in discussion I want to take those discussions to the
next level.
Why?:  My experiences have shown that the better a student can communicate mathematically, the better their understanding and retention of mathematical concepts.
Plan:  I searched and searched and finally found a set of question starters that I think will work well.  I printed them on cardstock, laminated them and put them on an O-ring so that I can have them with during class.  I will also go through the questions starters ahead of time and tag a few key ones that will fit the lesson of the day well.  The cards are called "Discussion Starters for Math Problem Solving: Questions for Critical Thinking" and are written by Angela Watson on TeachersPayTeachers

Resolution Three:  I want to help my students to feel more comfortable asking questions and expressing what they don't understand.
Why?:  When students hold questions in, they hit a roadblock and miss future information because they
Signs and Headers
cannot get over it.

Plan:  In addition to small group, one-on-one and other personalized questioning methods I am going to establish an exit-wall.  It will be a place where students can place sticky notes expressing what questions they still have and what they have understood really well.  I saw the idea in a set of headers (Signs and Headers for the Secondary Classroom) that I purchased off of TeachersPayTeachers Store Room 213 .  The headers have all different types included such as months, days of the week, signs to post on the door if you are out of the room and the set-up for the exit wall!  This way students can sign their sticky notes or put them up anonymously!  

Resolution Four:  I want do more than just present lessons, I want to get the students exploring, talking and working together too.
Task Card Bundle
Why?:  The more responsibility a student takes for their own learning, the more successful they are.
Plan:  I am going to implement task cards.  Task cards allow students to work on a single problem at a time and really focus on one main concept without feeling overwhelmed.  (See my post here for more in-depth discussion about task cards). I have written five sets for the first unit of Geometry that hit upon all of the main topics covered in that unit.  I will implement them in multiple ways including small groups, as exit cards and as part of a station activity.  I have all five sets available in money-saving bundle here.  

With a plan in place, I hope to be more successful!  I hope you've also gotten some ideas and some products to help you to be successful as well!  Good luck in your new school year!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

TPT Boost Sale - Only a few hours to go!

Today is the last Back To School Sale for the school year!  I hope everyone is able to stock up and save!  Anything and Everything in my store is 20% off and TPT kicks in another 10% to raise your total savings to 28%!!!!  I have back to school secondary binders, word wall posters, task cards and notes to start off your first unit of Geometry!  So stock up and save! :)

Thank you to Glitter Meets Glue Designs for the awesome graphic!!!

New Blog Design - Thank You, Thank You Kristy

I am debuting my brand new blog design today!  I must first give the greatest thanks and credit to Kristy of KristyBear Designs.  She took what could only have been the most ambiguous request/description ("something in black, gray and purple, that is secondary, geometric and not cutesy") and created exactly that I had in my brain, only better!  She was a dream to work with and I would highly recommend her to anyone who is looking to get a professional blog designed!

You can visit her TeachersPayTeachers store as well if you are in need of digital papers, clipart and more! 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Warm-Ups/Bellwork/Bellringers - The What, How and Why!

Basic Concepts Bellwork
Picture this:  The bell rings to start another class period, your last student or two tries to sneak as you shut the door so as to not be late and as you turn to greet your class you are met with a wall of noise.  You spend the next five minutes trying to quiet the class down while you take attendance, check-in homework or do other start of class tasks.  Once you are done, you waste another few minutes trying to get the class engaged and on task to start a new lesson, review or to take an assessment.  Suddenly it's 10-15 minutes into class and you have accomplished nothing...  This was a situation I dealt with often my first year - until I found a fantastic solution that is!

Circles Bellwork
My solution gets the students started when they walk in and engages them from the moment the bell rings.  My solution allows me to review previous concepts, preview upcoming topics, assess prior knowledge and direct where my lessons need to go.  They go by many names including Warm-ups, Bell-work, Bell-ringers, entrance cards.  They are nothing new having been around for as long as I can remember.  For those of you who are knew to them, however, I want to fill you in my lifesaver!

Right Triangles Bellwork
What they are:  A set of usually 2 - 5 problems that students work on during the first 5 - 10 minutes of class.  The problems can be solving, writing, explaining or illustrating depending on your topic area.  They are designed to be done individually or sometimes with the assistance of
a partner or notes.  I use them often to review what was on the previous nights assignment to make sure students are ready to move on the next topic. 

Answer Sheet
How to use them:  There many ways to implement them.  Way one:  You can project the problems on the board and give students a weekly recording sheet.  This allows you to save paper.  You can save time by walking around while they are working to stamp it as complete but only collect it once a week to put it in the grade book.  Way two:  You can print the problems on half sheets of paper and have students pick them up on their way in.  Students can hand them in immediately or compile a packet and turn them in once a week. 

Surface Area and Volume Bellwork
Why use them:  Besides the benefit of reviewing previous topics, bell-work can also help students to structure their questions.  Since the number problems is limited, it focus on doing them right.  Bell-work can be used to zero on skill deficiencies or a hole in the learning from the previous day.  Bell-ringers also structure your class from the beginning bell so that students get in to a routine and it lowers the incidences of off-task behaviors.

Quadrilaterals Bellwork

While warm-ups might not be for everyone, I have found nothing but benefits from implementing them!  In addition to the bell-work/bell-ringers/warm-ups pictured in this post I also have Area, Transformations and a money saving bundle!  Each set includes each day on its own page for projection, an answer sheet, an annotated answer key and the student problems double printed on half sheets of paper for handout!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Embracing what you have in your classroom

My classroom is the typical one with cinder block walls, white/chalkboards, window, etc.  I have one exception though - I lack bulletin boards.  For whatever reason, when they put my room together they forgot to put up any bulletin boards.  After many years of trying to secure them, I have decided to embrace what I have instead of wishing for what I don't.

In that vein I have went on a quest to find something that would stick to whiteboard to dress it up without destroying the ability to write on it.  I knew that tape, ticky-tack and other adhesives would not do the trick, I needed something magnetic...and I found it!!!  I found magnetic whiteboard border!  It comes in packages of 12 strips that are 2 feet long each and runs about $10 a package.  A little pricey but since it won't rip, definitely worth it in my opinion.  While I found mine at a local teacher store (Lakeshore Learning) they do not sell borders online, so I did some research and you can purchase them on amazon as well.  Here is one link: Magna Borders

Mounting Tabs
With my "dressing up my whiteboards" problem solved, I turned my attention to how I can get anything to stay on my painted cinderblock walls.  I have all of these great Geometry posters that I have made but need a way to not have to rehang them every Monday morning. After trying it all - tacky-tape, duct tape, double sided tape, hot glue - I finally found something that not only works, but also doesn't hurt the posters and is completely removable!  They are called "Removable Mounting Tabs". They stick to the wall, they stick to the poster but do not harm either and remove easily.  Again I found them at the local teacher store (click on the picture to be taken to them online) for a reasonable price!

Sometimes teaching is about pushing for more, especially with our students and their learning potential, but sometimes it is about taking what you have and making it look amazing!  That is what I have chosen to do!  :)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

TPT Back to School E-Books!

This back to school season multiple TPT sellers have come together under some fantastic leadership to create BTS e-books that are full of tips and free items to help you get your school year started off just right!  I am excited to share that Gina from All Things Algebra has posted the 6 - 12 Math Back To School e-book! 

6 - 12 TPT BTS Math e-book
Just click to download it and learn about some fantastic sources for BTS resources.  It is full of great tips!  Enjoy.  Please don't forget to leave Gina feedback telling her how much you enjoy it!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

How to get the most out of the TPT Back to School Sale!

I came across the attached picture while I was browsing the TeachersPayTeachers sellers forums this morning and just had to share!  There are so many good ideas on here!

1)  Filling up your wishlist.  If you have time, do some pre-shopping tonight and either add things to your wishlist or put them right in to your cart.  That way you don't feel rushed tomorrow.  Think about not only what you need (binders, lesson plans, worksheets, classroom forms) but also about what you want - clipart, maybe some new fonts, the fun stuff!

2)  Buy your larger items first and then leave feedback.  Remember - leaving feedback on paid products gets your credits that you can deduct like a gift card from a future transaction!   DO NOT forget to use the code:  BTS14 to save an EXTRA 10% of the stores sales prices! :)

3)  Apply your credits to other items in your cart.  That way you save some money and reap an immediate benefit to your purchases!

I hope you all find what you are looking for and maybe splurge a little bit too!  I know I plan to!

And of course, I hope you might find something in the Secondary Math Shop too! :)

Thank you to Adventures in Kinder and Beyond  for making the awesome graphic!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

What Do Teachers Love Even More Than New School Supplies? Saving Money On Them Of Course!

It's that wonderful time of year when teachers are shopping for all of their back to school supplies.  We find the pencils, pens, rulers, glue sticks and dozens of more supplies in our local stores at (hopefully) great prices!  But if you are anything like me, you find that the teaching resources at your local teacher supply shop aren't quite meeting your needs.  You might find yourself thinking "I need something on just _________, not with ___________ mixed in too"!  That is how I discovered TeachersPayTeachers and over time, I migrated from buyer to buyer and seller and the SecondaryMathShop was born!

My shop specializes in primarily Geometry resources with some Algebra and Trigonometry mixed in.  I have notes, homework, posters, graphic organizers, binders and so much more.  Next week - August 4th and 5th - is the annual Back To School sale one TPT.  You will be able to save not only 20% on everything in my store (money saving bundles included!) but TPT is offering an extra 10% on top of all sale prices.

So please, shop away.  Visit the SecondaryMathShop if time allows and get your year started off right and save money doing it! **Thank you to CampingTeacher for the fantastic artwork on this post!!!**
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