Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Effect of Posting Word Walls and Vocabulary at the Secondary Level

I sat down and did a quick count of the "new" vocabulary that students encounter in Geometry.  If I discount the ones that students 'should' have heard before, I am still left with over 200 crucial terms, formulas and figures that students are expected to master by the end of a school year.  Yep, over addition to writing English papers, reading literature and history (and all the intricacies that it entails), science, electives and too many other things to list.  I don't know about you, but even just reading that list makes my brain hurt.  In an effort to help my students achieve mastery, I took it upon myself to create word walls of all of the major terms, figures and such.  

 First Semester Bundle
First Semester Bundle

Each entry on my word walls includes the term, its definition, a diagram and/or example and other pertinent facts.  I broke my terms into semesters (first and second) and then further subdivided it into units.  I have found that keep them all up for the course of an entire semester has resulted in some fantastic results.

1)  My students refer back to the walls when they are stuck or don't remember something from a previous unit.  Their frustration level has decreased a great deal because they have a quick reference if they get stuck instead of having to flip through the book, their folders or other reference materials.

Second Semester Bundle
2)  Their ability to explain their thinking has increased dramatically because they have a better grasp of the vocabulary and how the concepts fit together.  For example, when we recently did our congruent triangle proofs, students were more successful because they were able to better remember facts about midpoints, bisectors and isosceles triangles - all of which are posted on the walls.

3)  Students are more focused on the concepts that we are studying because they can see how all the pieces are fitting together and they can see where we are headed.  I open the first week of school by telling the students that what is illustrated on my walls will be what we are studying.  We talk about what they already know and what impressions they have about what they are going to learn.

4)  My room just looks more put together and is a better reflection of high school.  Strange I know, but at the secondary level it is difficult to find decorations that are "older" instead of "elementary".

While it hasn't solved the entire problem of the horrendously long list of things that students today need to remember, it has helped and as teachers, that is one of the best things we can!  

If you want to read more about word walls, my friend over at Scaffolded Math and Science shared their own experience with word walls in this blog post.  They also shared a link with me to their spectacular word wall for Algebra 2 available here.  The description includes "...references for domain, range, increasing and decreasing in interval notation, ... Also included is a quadratic example graph showing the vertex, the equation in vertex form (and how those two relate), domain, range, increasing and decreasing. ... how the x and y at the vertex can show up in domain (in the radical example) and range."

If you are looking for more of an Algebra 1 word wall then check out All Thing Algebra's "Relations & Linear Functions: Word Wall Cards + Template".  Not only does it include the terms "coordinate plane, quadrants, origin, ordered pair, relation, domain, range, mapping, discrete graph, continuous graph, function, function notation, vertical line test, zeros, slope, slope formula, zero slope, undefined slope, positive slope, negative slope, slope-intercept form, standard form, x- and y-intercepts, horizontal line, vertical line, parallel lines, and perpendicular lines" but it also includes a bonus template to create your own.  

If your needs fall into the middle level then check out Lindsay Perro's "Middle School Math Vocabulary Cards  "The product includes "120+ Common Core related vocabulary words. Each page includes three cards - one with the word, another with the definition and another with an example. Use together on a word wall or as a matching activity to help students learn the words that are critical to common core success in middle school! These cards would work great as a math center in your classroom! Included are both color and black and white versions. Also included are templates in PowerPoint so you can add your own words!"

To the Square Inch- Kate Bing Coners has taken the idea of math word walls one step further and not only offers them in English but in Spanish too!  Both sets feature "Common Core based word wall words with illustrations with super bright colored backgrounds."   The Spanish ones are "Perfect for bilingual classrooms, ELL classes, Spanish math classes or supporting your English Language Learners."  I encourage you to check them out!  I know I will be :) 

I would love to know how you use word wall cards.  Comment below and I'll chose one lucky commenter to receive their choice of one of my twelve sets of word wall posters!!!  

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Avoiding the Pitfalls of Teaching 3 - Creating Your Own Materials and TeachersPayTeachers

      As I have progressed through my years of teaching (currently sitting at 15+ !) I have learned a great deal.  One of the things that I learned was to not follow the textbook as if it was the end-all-be-
all guide to teaching.  I learned to break away and follow my own sequencing (see pitfall 2 here).  Doing so, however, left me with a problem.  If I was creating my own sequencing and my own lessons then I didn't always have an assignment ready to go.  The work and worksheets that come with the book are designed to follow their sequencing, not mine.  So an epic quest started to find materials that were on a single topic (or similarly related topics) that I could use to give my student practice.

       I began by printing out the textbooks worksheets and using the good old cut it apart and tape parts back together to create a new worksheet.  For a while, this worked.  Eventually, however, I moved further away from the book and started creating my own examples because they better fit what I was trying to teach.  I did this because I often felt that the book was asking them to solve a math problem while jumping rope and singing the alphabet in their over complicated examples.  So my quest continued and led me to start buying worksheet books from the publishing companies and again, for a while this worked.  It solved my problem far better than the cut and paste method did.  Until suddenly I found myself frustrated again with the holes.  I kept thinking there had to be a better way and I started searching online and I found my first TeachersPayTeachers resource.  It matched exactly what I need and it was beautifully made.  I seriously had one of those "heavens opening, beam of light moments".  I'm not kidding, I spent hours on the website searching, bookmarking and loading my cart.  It was like Christmas in September.  I was incredibly happy...until I got switched from Algebra to Geometry and everything I had found and bought was for Algebra.  So back onto TpT I went and discovered that the Geometry resources were a lot more scarce than the Algebra ones...

        By that point, however, I had taught enough years that I was getting really good at creating my own stuff so I used what I learned and started creating high quality Geometry resources that matched the caliber of the Algebra that I had purchased.  One day I decided to share what I was making with other teachers and the  Secondary Math Shop was born. :)   Since I opened a store on there, the caliber of my lessons, activities, diagrams and classroom environment has skyrocketed. I not only make things that are so much more superior to what I used before, but I purchase so many things as well to supplement my lessons!  That's right, while I am a seller, I am also still an avid buyer! :)

I spoke with a few other teacher - authors about their journey to opening their own stores and here is what they had to say.

Apples and Bananas shared "Since we work in an alternative school setting, we found it necessary to create materials that would appropriately scaffold content for a variety of learners. When we realized that the curriculum we were given only reached a handful of our students, we decided to try our hand at creating scaffolded notes and interactive notebook activities, like the products in this Algebra bundle.  We saw that our students were retaining so much more information with this format, and we love that it is general enough to be used with any curriculum."

Nikki from Teaching Autism stated "I started to make my own resources when I realised that there wasn't anything out there that suited the 'class' as a whole. I decided I would have to make it myself! You see, we are very big on inclusion - when our topic is 3 little pigs, we ensure ALL our children, regardless of ability take part in the same 3 little pigs activities, BUT we differentiate them so they are working at the right level for them with just the right amount of challenge. So, I started making my own resources, I had always been good at ICT so thought it would be easy - it's not so easy, trust me, wow I don't know how some of these teachers do it! At first I was using publisher, slowly I got around to powerpoint, then I got brave and started using my macbook instead of my usual windows laptop, investing in clipart that I just KNEW my students would love. The more enthusiasm I put into my resources - the more the children LOVED them! I make the same activity in 5 different levels, yep FIVE. It means all our children are working on the EXACT same activity, yet it's just changed to suit their individual abilities and needs!   Every child is different, which, in my class, means they all need different resources suitable for them. "

History Gal shared that "The textbook and the material that come with it make history boring. Raise your hand if you remember being in history class and being told my your teacher to read pages x - x and answer the questions at the end of the chapter. Who gets excited about doing that? I want students to get excited about history so I created my own activities. My favorites are my historical simulations"

It's Kinder Time I purchased Morning Work for my kinder kiddos and found that some of it was too easy for my kids. I also noticed that sometimes the morning work would have standards I had not taught yet and my kiddos would struggle to complete a supposedly review independent activity. This issue pushed my to take the giant leap and create my own Morning work. You can find it here(Morning Work Bundle). I know my kiddos were able to work through this product independently and were reviewing stands that we covered. It also helped that the weekly practice was repetitive and my kiddos knew what skill they would practice.  I am now working on adding the units that I have created for my classroom to tie in some fun activities as well as hitting the academic standards. Really creating came from wanting to have materials that fit the needs of my kiddos and allowed me to support each kiddos at their level."

Mrs. E from Mrs. E Teaches Math explained that  "I taught honors students and had a very difficult time finding activities and other resources rigorous enough for my students. Most of the activities I found online were way too simple for my students. I started creating my own activities to use in my classroom. One of my coworkers saw the activities I was making and suggested I list them on Teachers pay Teachers."

Coach Christopher from Courage To Core shared  "In my view, most textbooks aren’t sufficiently student-centered. They also tend to cover an incredible breadth of material at the expense of depth, and rarely give students the authority to do more than a series of relatively repetitive practice problems. They are certainly useful resources and particularly so for students who can work and learn independently out of the gate, but I think they don’t work so well for students who are not already performing at a high level. By contrast, having students work in small groups engages and challenges students widely regardless of level. Students must collaborate, articulate, listen, be creative, risk failure, deal with failure, persist, organize, assist, be assisted and actively engage as problem-solvers. Really putting my students to work has worked for them."

The pitfalls are there, just waiting, but hopefully together we can navigate them, avoid them or capitalize upon them to the benefit of you and your students.  What do you do to create your own materials or to supplement to make things fit the needs of your students?  Comment below, I'd love to hear it!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Avoiding the Pitfalls of Teaching 2 - Breaking Away From the Book's Sequencing

      As we move forward in our teaching career we look back on the past and say "if I had only known then what I know now..." and have a hundred things to fill in the blank with.  While there are many things that I wish I could have a do-over on, it is what I have identified as pitfall number 2 that bothers me the most.  It is simply this:  I wish that I had known that it is preferable to deviate from the book and teach material in an order that makes more sense rather than going lock-step section by section.

       In those nervous first few years we follow the book (if we have one) because it is our lifeline.  It is what tells us where to head next and saves our sanity when we are completely overwhelmed and cannot think of one more thing before we crash from exhaustion.  So we do section 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, quiz (because they book says one should fall there), 1.4....until we get through the book.  We don't realize (often because no one tells us or we are too tired to ask) that it is only a guide, not a curriculum.  I know that for years I followed it because it was all that I had.  My notes were even labeled "1.1 Title of Section".  I look back on those days and realize that while I was teaching, I was not reaching.  I was covering every topic that was on my list and getting through the whole book (most years anyway) which was seen as a win!  I was so nervous and so anxious about keeping my room quiet and under control (see pitfall one here) that I never asked myself "are they learning"?

      One day, however, as I got over my nerves, I started to realize that the ideas were so choppy and segmented that the students were struggling to make connections.  I started examining the content and not the book and came to some realizations.  I realized that there were triangles in chapters 1, 4, 7 and 9 so why not just do a unit on triangles?  Why not rearrange the order of topics so that they flow together instead of battling with each other?  I sat down and started mapping out topics and identifying what went with what and what was foundational information versus what was the next level.  Ultimately I started rearranging my entire outlook to meet the needs of the students (while still covering the curriculum).

      When I started doing this, my whole classroom changed, improved and strangely enough, I felt like a better teacher!  I felt like I was actually in control of what my students were learning and had some autonomy to try new things.  My passion for teaching was reenergized because I was again enjoying what I was doing.  Best of all - my students were happier, learning and retaining better and more effectively engaged!

I spoke with a few other teacher-authors about how they broke away from the textbook:

History Gal shared that "history's sequencing is chronological so it is difficult to deviate too much. However, as the teacher, I can decide how much to spend on each unit. This might surprise you, but there are parts of history that are boring even to history teachers! I cover those time periods quickly and spend more time on parts of history that I enjoy.

Coach Christopher from Courage To Core  shared "I like to switch things up every few years and teach at a new school, or quit and go rock climb for a year to keep things fresh. On the other hand, one way to keep some continuity for me has been to craft my own teaching materials to go alongside the school’s preferred text. The materials were adapted, refined and expanded with each new school. After 15 years (!) the texts became ancillary to my own materials which are now under the moniker Courage To Core. The evolution continues. No lock-step allowed!"

The pitfalls are there, just waiting, but hopefully together we can navigate them, avoid them or capitalize upon them to the benefit of you and your students.  How did you learn to break away from the books sequencing to using your own?  Comment below, I'd love to hear it!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Avoiding the Pitfalls of Teaching # 1 - Talking To Your Students Instead of At Them

Although  as teachers we spend many years in college learning our subject area and in teacher education classes, nothing - not even student teaching - can fully prepare you for the day that you walk into a school and have your own classroom.  Suddenly that's it.  You are in front of a room of 25 - 35 students all of whom you need to educate, engage and manage.  Unfortunately, unless you have a fantastic support system, you are likely to commit some of the common pitfalls that can make your job that much harder.  Over the next few weeks I am going to address some of these pitfalls and how to avoid them!  Additionally, I have asked some of my friends at teacherspayteachers to contribute their knowledge as well!

Topic One:  How to Talk TO your students (i.e. facilitating a discussion) instead of AT them (i.e. lecturing)! 

When we start teaching we are nervous, especially for the first year or two until we get some experience under our belts.  We want everything to go well, we want our rooms to be well managed, we want to be that super fantastic, great, wonderful, perfect teacher whose classroom looks like one of those out of a 1950's sitcom where everything is neat, tidy, with the students all raising their hands. To achieve this lofty "perfect classroom" we walk in, put the hammer down and start talking at our students through the "stand and deliver" lecture method.  We operate under the assumption that if they are silent, they are listening, learning and perfectly "under control".  Yep, sure they are. (Just like when my kids are suddenly quiet at home it means that they are being perfect angels...)   In all reality, 40% of your students are not learning anything because they don't learn that way, 50% are afraid to ask a question (or robbed of the opportunity to do so because you never pause) and 80% are about to explode from the amount of words and energy that is building up.
No one can sit still, silently for 45 - 60 minutes.  I know that I sure can't.  I get antsy, I start to tune out the words around me, I doddle, I start making lists, I get BORED!  Do we honestly expect our pre-teens and teens to be any different?  At the age we are when we become teachers we've learned some of the social norms, we know how to stay in our seats and at least look tuned in.  Most of the students sitting in front of us don't.  They are in ever changing bodies in an ever changing world trying to balance school, families, sports/clubs, friends, hormones and a thousand other things.  When you are trying to compete with all of that you need to teach how they learn.

So how do you do that?  How do you teach the way they learn?  Simple - you talk with them, not at them.  You allow your students to feel that they have a stake in their learning process and the ebb and flow of the classroom.

  • **  To combat their need to talk you can give them quick breaks where you say "solve this question with someone sitting next to you" or have a quick class discussion about how they see the topic (when applicable) used in the "real world".  
  • **  To combat their need to move ask students to come to the board to solve a problem or have them do a quick "think, pair, share".  
  • ** To keep them engage you can ask "what questions do you have" instead of "does anyone have any questions"?  Ask a student to explain what you just taught in their own words.  

In other words, you involve them in the lesson which gives them the opportunity to burn off some energy and raises engagement rates.  (I talk more about effective questioning here). You talk TO them and listen when they respond back.   If you ask them a question, listen, ask more questions to draw out more information, ask other students if they agree, disagree or have something to add.  You don't want to get them talking, engaging and interested to then just shut them out by not giving their responses any credence.

I spoke with a few other teacher-authors about how they made this shift:

Nikki from Teaching Autism found success when she formed relationships and explored other methods: "For me, it's very different, 99% of our children are non verbal, meaning it's very easy to talk at them rather than with them. It's great to offer choices so that they are independently making choices with you, using prompt cards ( to stir up a conversation - use iPad apps such as proloquo or symbol/communication books ( so that they are able to answer you, get them to point to an answer when you have offered them a choice. 

At first, it can be so hard, how do you make conversation with a non verbal child? It's something that doesn't come to you at first, so don't feel deflated when you feel like you're failing. It's something that definitely grows with you as your experience does. The more you learn about the children, the more you're able to talk with them, look for different signs of communication and promote communication that they look forward to. It's through this, that you start to build strong and professional relationships with your students. Once you have that strong relationship, then you're ready to tackle the teaching world!"

Coach Christopher from Courage To Core shared that the shift happens when you engage the students strengths: "For some years I worked at the amazing Archer School for Girls in Los Angeles, a city where social capital is the subtext for almost every text, where all Instagram’s are about to go viral, and face to face interactions can feel a little like being added to someone’s LinkedIn network. The Archer girls spoke in emoji’s or hashtags or something—codes conveyed in a blink of an eye, because they knew each other and were utterly in their domain at Archer. In class they lunged to answer questions, to hear their voices and those of their peers, and it was a shame not to leverage their social skills to educational ends. When I transitioned primarily to group work in math class, it was as if they had been holding their breaths for a month, waiting to engage full-throated. It was a viral sensation."

It's Kinder Time feels that the shift happens when you make a connection: "I believe that the many years I spent in the city recreation program for children helped me learn how to have conversations with kiddos rather then talk at them. Over time I learned better ways to make connections. Finding out your students interests really helps make connection with them and can open many doors with parents once they see how much you really care."

The pitfalls are there, just waiting, but hopefully together we can navigate them, avoid them or capitalize upon them to the benefit of you and your students.  How did you learn to talk TO your students instead of AT them?  Comment below, I'd love to hear it!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Connections - The Most Crucial Element In A Successful Classroom

Connections...being connected...being a part of the community of classroom...its a bold statement to say that this is the most crucial element but I truly believe it is.  If a student is not connected, not a part of the community of the classroom, then they simply become a seat filler, another paper to grade, another voice.  Think about how often you have walked into a room, a wedding, a party where most of the people know each other, have a shared connection and you are the "odd man out".  How do you feel?  While there are a few people who could jump right in and walk up to people, most people wait for someone to approach them, to bring them into a circle.  As teachers, that is our job - to bring our students into a circle, a community, a safe place where they can learn, grow, explore.  So how do we do it?  How do we make that connection, build the community that our students need?

1.  Be tuned in.  When you are in your classroom, be there mentally as well as physically.  So often we are in our classes physically, but our minds are consumed with the forms we need to complete, meetings we need to have, our families at home, what are we doing for the weekend and 1,000 other things.  As hard as it is, we need to shut those things off or at least try to and focus on being present mentally when we are in the classroom.  How this occurs is different for everyone.  It may be featuring artwork from your kids or pictures of your family so they are "with you" but not your primary focus.  It could also be making a "To-Do" list of everything you need to accomplish so that you don't forget but can focus your mind on other things.  Whatever it is that works for you and allows you to be tuned in, do it!  Your students will thank you!

2.  Create an environment that is safe.  Students, whether they are in Kindergarten, their senior year or anywhere in-between are still kids.  (If you don't believe me, just break out the crayons and see what happens! :)  They still need to feel safe and secure in order to be truly successful.  They need to know that there will be supportive words to encourage them, a safety net if they fail and accolades when they succeed.  They need to know that they won't be ridiculed by their peers if they have questions and that it is a safe place to express their thoughts.  In order to create this safe environment I suggest starting by with clear expectations (I go into more depth about this here) about what is and is not acceptable in they classroom, establish clear norms about how discussion will occur and more importantly be tuned in to what is happening in the classroom.  Do not let behavior slide for some students but come down hard others for the same behavior.  Be fair and consistent.

3.  Partner with parents.  As both a parent and a teacher I know first hand how important it is to be in a partnership with parents and not a competition.  Communicate with parents about the spectacular things that their students do, not just the negative.  I had an experience with past year where I would get notes home from my son's teacher about how his day went.  They were a checklist of six areas of behavior and rated with a smiley face, straight face or sad face.  He got quite a few sad faces, so many at one point that I started dreading getting the note at the end of the day.  I would start to have that anxious feeling in the pit of my stomach when I would see his backpack.  This teacher never sent home a note when he had a great day, just when he had a bad day.  BTW - my son is 5.  After a few weeks of this, my husband and I requested a meeting with the teacher where we expressed our concerns.  We found a way to partner with the teacher.  The communication got better, our son got happier and the behavior improved.  You can partner with parents with written communication (notes, e-mails, etc.), verbal communication (phone calls or meetings) or through practice (become the teacher that impacts their student(s) in a positive way to make a positive impact).

4.  Make a personal connection.  Humans are social.  We love to talk, to interact, to communicate and to share of ourselves.  Being a teacher allows a million ways to make a personal connection.  Notice the things that change about your students - a new haircut, cool new shoes, etc. and comment on them in a positive way.  Remember the things that a student tells you - an upcoming vacation, a new puppy, a job interview and follow up to see how it went/is going.  Attend after school activities when possible - a club, band concert, sporting event and then mention it the next day.  Share of yourself and common interests and experiences.  The more human you are, the more you can connect with your students.

5.  Nurture skills that will help them to be part of a bigger community.  We have our students for a short fraction of their lives - a semester, a year, maybe two and it is our job to help them to move on to the next part, chapter or adventure that their lives will offer.  At the high school level this means teaching them job skills, social skills and other skills that will help them to be successful in getting their first job.  We get the opportunity to help them figure if the job market, college or the military is where their strengths lie after high school.  We have the responsibility to help mold them into the (young) adults who will lead future generations.  We can give them these skills through conversation, prodding and modeling them ourselves.

Whatever you do, make connections with your students.  They really will translate to greater success for your students and for yourself as a teacher.  How do you make connections?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Back to School 2015 Secondary Mathletes Giveaway!!!

Wait, what? It's back to school for some people already? Then let's celebrate! My friends in the Secondary Mathlete's and I have teamed up to put together an awesome giveaway! The giveaway is designed to help you get your room set-up, get yourself organized and to give you a little something for those first couple of days! The giveaway will run from Sunday 8/16 to midnight on Saturday 8/22. The two lucky winners will be notified on Sunday 8/23!

1. From Teaching High School Math is Just for Fun Math Posters Bundle! This is a set of fun math posters that you can hang anywhere in your room. Hopefully your students will get a little laugh from the "inside" jokes!  They are fantastic to use as funny launches or hooks for new lessons as well!

2. From Secondary Math Shop we have 8 Standards for Mathematical Practice Posters. This set includes 8 posters (one for each standard) that highlight the standard, some key vocabulary for each standard as well as some questions that students can answer to help direct them to mastery of the practice.  These are fantastic to hang on a bulletin board, use as the launching pad for discussions or many other uses.  There is also a two page handout included for students interactive notebooks or to put in a binder for quick reference.

3. From Scaffolded Math and Science is their Task Card World Trip. This download is a fun addition to any task cards you use in any class. It can be added to task cards that are being used as test prep, completed on days leading up to a holiday break (hard to focus!), or anytime you'd like to add a layer of friendly competition to your task cards activity. As students complete each task card, they move their avatar to the next world destination, eventually making their way back home. Each student can start on a different task card (and correlating destination card) so that each student's "home" is different. This allows you to print just one or two sets of task cards instead of a set for each student. My students get extra motivated when they can see their progress as their avatar moves along the board!

4. From To The Square Inch - Kate Bing Coners is Math Classroom Decor Pack Number Lines, Posters and Signs. Many students have learned to dread math class, so it is important to welcome them and create a great environment for them to learn in! This pack includes everything you need to make your math classroom inviting and functional. Included in this pack: * -20 to 20 bright chevron number line (can be constructed to include any numbers your want!)
* Personal desktop size number lines with bright chevron backgrounds (5 per page, 6 different colors) with numbers -10 to 10 and 0-20.
* Calculators Permitted/ Calculators NOT permitted half page signs
* 5 motivational math posters to display in your room
* ”STAR MATH WORK” Rainbow Chevron Bunting
* Standards for Mathematical Practice Rainbow Chevron Posters (multi-color background and single color background set)

5. From Lessons with Coffee is a set of Classroom Management Posters. These are posters that you can use that follow the guidelines of the "Teach Like A Champion" book. Students can use them for not only monitoring themselves as you are teaching but to also give you feedback so that you can know when you are not talking loud enough or too loudly. The show five is a method that multiple teachers use that has been modified to allow use as a countdown rather than a salute.

6. From Teaching Math By Heart is a Math Portfolio Pack (Bundle) that includes 4 different resources! This pack includes a collection of ways to motivate your students to think critically about, and reflect on, their math understanding and learning.These activities make great assessment tools and give you a glimpse into how your students think about math, and themselves as math learners. These activities also make a great discussion piece at conferences.  This pack includes:
*Start of Year Math Survey
*End of Term Math Reflection    
*My New Years Math Resolution
*End of Year Math Reflection

7. From Hodges Herald is their Back to Basics Middle School Bundle. Included you will find nine middle school interactive activities for students to review previously taught skills. This is a great way for students to learn procedures for Math groups or rotations. Teachers will be able to see where students need support and skills they have already mastered. Start the year with content, right away!

8. From Lindsay Perro is their Behavior, Data, Lesson & Communication Teacher Binder Resources. This resource includes 17 different pages for your teacher binder to help keep you organized and make lesson planning and parent communication easier! A few resources included are : grade sheets, class lists, a parent conference worksheet, a classroom behavior notice, student surveys and more!

9. From Live Love Math is their Teacher Toolbox Labels - Bold Chevron - Editable.  There are SO many ideas to make a super cute teacher's toolbox on pinterest! Here are my labels that I used for mine. Save time by purchasing this set and have your toolbox ready to go in under 30 minutes! This file includes 22 labels that are completely editable PLUS the complete set of 22 labels that I used with the text embedded already. If you want to use the same font, it is called appleberry. You can find it on

10.  From All Things Algebra is their Algebra 1 Review Flip Book.  This flip book was created to use with Geometry or Algebra 2 students as a review/refresher of the following Algebra 1 topics: Multi-Step Equations, Exponent Rules, Radicals, Polynomials, Factoring Polynomials, Linear Equations, and Quadratic Equations.  This alternative review can be used in lieu of weeks spent re-teaching concepts!

11. From Miss Math Dork is their How to Be A Good Mathematicians Poster Set. I am so excited for this product! So many students don't know what it means to be a Good Mathematicians These 14
bright and colorful posters serve as a constant reminder!
Included in this product:
*14 bright and colorful posters
*14 colorful, but more printer friendly posters - these also print beautifully in black and white without losing the details
*A handout for your students to keep close at hand to remind them of the qualities of a Good Mathematician. (The handout is available in 4 colors, and one printer friendly version)
Check out the Preview for FOUR of the posters for FREE! Also, check out the preview to see thumbnails of ALL 14 posters and the handouts!

Please follow the directions below to be entered into the giveaway!  Two lucky teachers will win!!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, July 31, 2015

Classroom Management Tips: Secondary Level

No matter how many years you have been teaching, be it just starting your first year, starting your last year or somewhere in-between there is one necessity that never goes away - Strong, Effective Classroom Management.  I have found over my years of teaching that regardless of the class, topic or even grade really, that there are few standard practices that will always hold true.

1.  Start day one with a clear set of expectations in your head.   
Spend some time before the first day thinking about what you want your classroom environment to be like.  Do you want to establish a routine where students know that as soon as they come they get started on warm-ups (bellwork/do-nows, etc.), then homework questions, lesson etc.?  Do you want to have students hand in work to a turn-in bin, do you want to collect it or perhaps you plan to walk around during the warm-ups to check it in and conference with students.  Do you plan to give bathroom/locker/hall passes?  If so, when in the class is it acceptable to ask?  What is your acceptable use policy for technology? These (and many more!) are questions that you need to have an idea about ahead of time.  By knowing what you want your classroom environment to be like, you can devise ways to make it happen!  The less that you have clear in your head before you start, the more likely you are to lose control of your classroom.

2.  Stick to your word.  If you say that doing "x" will result in "y" consequence, then do it!  The minute you let a behavior slide once, you are done.  You will start hearing "but you let so and so get away with it...".  On the flip side, if you express to students that they will get a reward of something for completing a task (i.e. the winning team gets a candy bar tomorrow), and then don't follow through, you will lose their trust.  One very powerful way to be able to stick to your word is to talk to your students about what you expect (see #1), what they expect and devise consequences (and rewards) together that everyone can find acceptable.  Students are far more likely to "buy-in" if they feel like they had a stake in creating something in the first place.

3.  Create an environment where students feel safe to make mistakes.  Math students, especially at the secondary level, are very afraid of failure as well as getting something and therefore tend towards not trying unless they are pretty sure of success.  When students aren't trying, they aren't engaged and therefore become behavior problems.  In order to combat this I employ two very powerful strategies.  First, when I make a mistake (especially if I am at the board teaching) I acknowledge it.  I don't try to cover it, I just go with it and use it as a teachable moment.  I will often ask students if they can help me find my mistake.  I even been known to make a mistake on purpose to further this goal.  The second thing I do is to talk to my students about what it feels like when you make a mistake in other situations, how you learn from them and then we discuss how that can be applied to our classroom.  This goes a long way to showing students that getting it wrong is part of the process of learning how to get it right!

4.  Establish norms for the different situations that will arise.  
Just as knowing how your want you classroom routine structured is important to effectively managing your classroom, so is knowing how you want the different situations that occur in a classroom to run.  The first situation that you may want to consider is group work settings.  What is your plan for when students work in groups?  Do you choose the groups or do the students?  Do you have limits on group size?  Are you going to assign roles within the groups?  Do you want a single paper turned in per group or do you want all the students to complete an activity and staple their papers together as a group?  The second situation which is crucially important to have a plan for is classroom discussions. Do you call on the students or can they call on each other?  Can students opt out of answering a question or must they give it an attempt?  Are you going to keep track of participation for points or is there not a need for that?  How are students allow to talk - to each other or just to you?  A great strategy to structure classroom is discussion is "Math Talk".  

5.  Enjoy your job and communicate that enjoyment to your students.  
Nobody wants to be around someone who is miserable and wishing they were somewhere else or doing something else.  I'm so sorry to be the one to say it, but its true.  If you hate what you are teaching or where you are teaching it, the students will know it and they feel rejected.  This attitude also bleeds through into your ability to teach you students and to help them to feel connected.  On the flip side, if you are pleasant and genuinely want to be doing what you are doing, it draws the students in and helps to make a connection and communicate that learning can be enjoyable.  The more you want to be there, the more your students will too!

I realize that there is a great deal more that goes into effective classroom management, but these are five things that I have found work for most anyone!  Do you have any other strategies that you have found work well?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Why Collaborative Work Needs to Occur as Often as Possible

Looking back on my own schooling experiences I cannot clearly identify situations where we worked  together.  I cannot remember my teachers telling us to "turn to the person next to you and share your answer" or coming into the classroom and working in groups.  After talking to a few people who I went to school with I realized that I can't remember it because it rarely happened (except for labs in science class).  Knowing what I know now about the power of collaborative communication, this makes me incredibly sad.  I wonder how my own school struggles would have been diminished had I had the chance to work with others.  I know that for many of us, collaborative work and communication causes fear.  I addressed the ways that I handle this by setting up the classroom for collaboration from day one in a recent post (available here).  What I want to address today is not the HOW of collaboration but the WHY.

Reason one:  It helps to aid with classroom management.  I know, the first thought that goes through the mind is how in the world is it possible that getting them to talk will help with classroom management?  Hear me out, I promise it will make sense.  Teenagers have difficulty sitting still and listening for long periods of time, this is a proven fact.  Just watch your students for a few minutes and see what happens.  They start to shift in their seats, they doodle, they try to sneak a peek at their phone and/or they start talking to the people near them.  By taking collaboration breaks in a lesson such as "turn to your neighbor and work out this problem" or "collaborate with your elbow partners to restate ______________" you are giving them an outlet for that nervous energy.  It helps them to focus on what you are teaching and has the added benefit of identifying misconceptions about what you are teaching if they exist.

Reason two:  Teenagers are social creatures who live in a world where information and communication is literally at their fingertips at all times.  As teachers who desire to meet our students in the ways that they best learn, retain and reference information we have to move outside of our comfort zones and meet our students how they learn best.  Today that means collaboration, communication, sharing of ideas and talking with classmates as often as possible.  Students need to work together to clarify information in their own minds.  I have even seen some "social media" templates that work perfectly to get at the information on the students' levels.

Reason three:  We need to teach our students how to work cohesively with all types of people.    We are preparing these students for the "real world" (I really dislike that term) beyond high school whether it is college, the military or the workforce.  Regardless of what path they take, there will be people that they have to be able to effectively communicate with.  As educators, it is our responsibility and privilege to give them the opportunities to practice and refine these skills.

Reason four:  Studies show that information is retained most effectively when it is shared with others. I saw this graphic online and it stuck itself in my brain.  This is why teachers need to to embrace collaboration.   We teach in a world of high stakes testing, constant competition, and we have to do what it takes to set our students up for success.  The majority of teachers get entrenched (and often trained) in the top part - passive teach methods.  In the past, it worked for the most part.  Looking, however, at the 5% (which yes, may be a little low) of information retained from lecture compared to the 50% for group discussion and the 90% (which yes, might be a little high) from teaching others I'm left with one thought - how can we not try???  If there is even a chance (and research shows there is) that group collaboration can help with retention, learning and connections between concepts we have to try.

Reason five:  If students don't communicate, you have no idea what they know and don't know.  I have had many students in my career who have difficulty showing their knowledge on paper but when you talk to them they can explain it fantastically!  Additionally, by talking to their classmates students will often clarify their own understanding.  In my experience, students can use the same words that you as a teacher use, but it sounds completely different to their classmates and can make a great deal of sense.  

Whatever the reason, I challenge you to try it.  Get your students talking and see what happens, you just might be surprised! :)

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Super Spectacular Secondary Mathletes Giveaway!

A few months ago a group of teacher-authors from TeachersPayTeachers connected with each other and formed a collaborative group named the Secondary Mathletes. You all have been so supportive of all of us that it is time for us to give back to you! We are pleased to announce that we have come together to create a giveaway as a thank you for all of your support. Two lucky winners will receive a bundle of wonderful activities, games and resources that you can use in the first few weeks of school!  Each teacher-author has provided a short description of their resource and you can find links to their TpT stores as well as to the product itself!  Please enter the giveaway using the rafflecopter at the bottom!  The drawing will be open until July 18th!

1) From the SecondaryMathShop. I have included my Geometry Beginning Concepts Vocabulary Matching Activity. This activity is designed to serve a few purposes including reinforcing the foundational vocabulary from geometry, help students who are struggling with the vocabulary to visualize the terms and to help students review for an upcoming test. Included you will find four types of cards to match - - a term, a diagram, a name (label) and a definition - - as well as answer sheet! There are so many ways to use this activity!

2) From Hodges Herald. I have included my Multiplying and Dividing Fractions Bingo. Use this game to get your students back into mathematical thinking.  Students get to chose how to set up their Bingo boards which helps them to practice organization as well as how to write fractions.  A fun way to review previously learned concepts. This bingo game using Task Cards. Great for small groups or whole class. Self Correcting and loads of fun!

3) From Lindsay Perro. I have included my Back to School Math Activities for Middle School. We all know summer passes quickly! Some of your students will return to school eager and ready to learn, others will be hesitant to get back in the swing of things and will still be holding on to their summer! This packet includes 9 questionnaires, ice breakers and activities for back to school. 

4) From Live, Love, Math. I have included my Integer Operations Seating Cards. This file includes a set of 30 seating cards (4 to a page). Each card has an order of operations problem involving integers which the student will solve in order to find his/her seat in the classroom. I have my desks numbered 1-30 and this is how I set up my seating chart at the beginning of the year or anytime I want to change seats. Each problem has a unique solution, so it is a good discussion starter when you see two students trying to sit in the same seat or in this case, trying to find a negative seat! All answers are positive.These problems do include negative numbers as well as exponents and all four operations. Some are harder than others, so you can give some of the easier ones to kiddos who haven't mastered the skill yet in order to give them a confidence boost. There are also two blank cards in case you have a class larger than 30.

5) From Scaffolded Math and Science. I have included my Interactive Notebook: Solving Algebra Equations. This download includes 8 pocket flippables showing the solving process of 8 different equations. Once put together, each pocket holds a series of different-sized cards that align to show the steps of solving. On the bottoms of each card (out of sight when the cards are all in place) are explanations for each step. Students can add each card to its pocket while reading why each step was taken to solve the equation. 

6) From Teaching High School Math. I have included my Algebra - Line Them Up - Solving Two Step Equations. In this activity, students are each given a task card with a solving two step equations problem and a QR Code. Students are given a couple of minutes to solve their problem. Then they are invited to get up and

arrange themselves in order of their solutions from smallest to largest. After they think they have themselves in order, the teacher walks by and scans their QR Codes. The teacher announces the solution on each card. If students are lined up correctly, they win! This is a great activity for the beginning of school because it gives students a chance to interact in a non-threatening way. It gives you the opportunity to see who your leaders will be. This activity would probably best be used in a Geometry class where all students have already learned to solve equations.

7)  From All Things Algebra.  I have included my Order of Operations, Evaluating Expressions, One-Step Equations Review.  Rolling review activities are perfect way to have students work together, yet work on their own problems. Students love to roll the dice to choose the problems, and are amazed that two different problems can have the exact same answer. The matching answers also provide a means of self checking. This particular rolling review activity contains order of operations, evaluating expressions, and one-step equations. This would make a terrific back to school review to brush up on some basic skills!

8) From MissMathDork. I have included my How to be a Good Mathematician - 14 colorful posters for your classroom! So many students don't know what it means to be a Good Mathematicians These 14 bright and colorful posters serve as a constant reminder! Included in this product:
*14 bright and colorful posters
*14 colorful, but more printer friendly posters - these also print beautifully in black and white without losing the details
*A handout for your students to keep close at hand to remind them of the qualities of a Good Mathematician. (The handout is available in 4 colors, and one printer friendly

9) From To the Square Inch - Kate Bing Coners. I have included my Scientific Notation Guided notes and Task Cards CCS: 8.EE.A.4. This product is designed to help students learn, apply and practice the concept of Scientific Notation. I have included in this product:
*Scientific Notation Notes
*Scientific Notation to Standard Form Notes
*Products and Quotients in Scientific Notation Notes
*20 Scientific Notation Task Cards
*Recording Sheet
*Science Connection Worksheet

10) From Lessons withe Coffee. I have included my Print and Go Interactive Math Bulletin Board {Boggle}. This edition of the P&G Bulletin Boards is Boggle. Students are given instructions and a worksheet to write down answers on. Once this wall is set up, not only do you have a beautiful wall, but you also have a conversation starter. For this particular game students are to pick two numbers and simply add or subtract them. YOU CHOOSE what numbers to use. I have decimals on mine, but I will change to fractions after one week. The idea is that you change the numbers each week. This could be money, whole numbers, integers, absolute values, square roots, or exponents. HECK! Throw in some expressions with variables to add! This set includes:
**BOGGLE header – KG Wake Me Up**
**Directions Letters – KG Cold Coffee (My Current favorite font!)
**Student Direction Bubbles
**16 Star bursts with white box for writing numbers
**“Boggle Work Sheet” File folder sign
**Boggle Work Sheet

We are giving away a bundle to two  lucky winners so enter below!!! :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...