What's Broken?

I spent more time- willingly- this summer doing school stuff than all previous summers combined.

I was so proud of myself.

New ideas, doing routine stuff ahead of time, and even blogging about it.

The first week we set up binders and notebooks and Google Classroom and Delta Math etc. Mostly the same routine from year to year.

The first few days went so crappy.

Not anything the students would notice. But I did stuff in a stupid order. Messed up both my printers. Left my hard drive at home. Forgot things until the last minute. Copied the same paper three times because the first time I accidentally hole punched it and the second time I did it upside down.

Even the third time cut the edges off.

I just felt...chaotic in my brain. I'm also not good at getting into a normal sleep pattern so my energy levels were crashing throughout the day. I spilled food on myself twice that week. Wore red lipstick but forgot to bring it with me so after lunch I was missing the inside lipstick with just a ring around the outside. lol

The day I felt fat and ugly and couldn't get my hair to do anything, three kids commented in Google Classroom that they liked my outfit, makeup, etc.

I got positive parent feedback and positive feedback from another colleague.

I gave hugs and fist bumps and high fives. I kept them engaged from bell to bell.

I tried new things. Got routine things done.

The moral of this post is that you can have 10 years of experience, prepare a whole summer, and still have things go wrong.

But your systems are still in place. The routines still work. You are still teaching.

And it will be okay.

We encourage mistakes in our learners for better learning, let's also encourage them in our teaching for better teaching.

When things go wrong or get chaotic, that is my newest idea for a system, form, structure change, etc.

The more things I fix, the smoother things go. But I can't fix things until I notice they're broken. So when mistakes happen, and they will (on a daily basis), add it to your list of things to improve.

You are okay.

And the mistakes will make you better.


Systems and Forms: The Cheerleading Version

Melissa asked my if I would be willing to share my cheer stuff which was great timing considering I had nothing to blog about today!

Let me preface this by saying we are not a hardcore competitive squad. We only cheer for basketball and 11 is the most cheerleaders I've ever had. But also that doesn't mean that I don't have forms and a handbook! lol

Cheerleading Expectations

Cheerleading Contract

I do tryouts after volleyball ends because a lot of my cheerleaders do both. Again, small school. I ask the school nurse to help me with tryouts because she is a former cheerleader and former coach. Surprisingly enough, I am a former basketball player.

I give the girls a rubric on the first day and a copy of the expectations. We teacher them 4-5 sideline cheers and two floor cheers. The second day they perform the floor cheers in groups. Then we call them in one by one to do their individual sideline cheers. They also have to do a cartwheel, herkie, spread eagle, and toe touch.

We both agree on a score and then I rank them from highest scores to lowest.

Here is the rubric:

I also make practice schedules for each month so that everyone knows when we have games and practices.

Our first practice we pick out bags, socks, shoes, bows, and warm-ups. I make a price sheet and the girls fill out their sizes and then I order.

I make a cheerleading bible for each girl with all the rules and cheers in it. My school has a binding machine so I print them front to back on card stock and bind it.

Cheerleading Bible (all cheers listed)

I also make a mini version for myself in a binder that I carry to games with me. Some years I have to keep track of who calls the cheers because I want every girl to participate. Last year I trained them pretty well to start with the captain and go in order through the entire squad and then repeat. I also keep attendance for practice and games too.

That's all I can think of- hope this helps Melissa!


Delta Math

Over the last year or so I had heard about Delta Math on Twitter but didn't really think I had a use for it. Also, to be honest, I thought it sounded boring.

At the end of last school year, my principal shared concerns that students were not doing well on standardized testing because they lose their pre-algebra skills over time. His solution was to put the lower freshman into a Pre-Algebra class. I strongly objected since that would be going backward and I have never taught Pre-Algebra let alone have any materials for it.

I started asking questions about Delta Math on Twitter. When I started choosing sessions for TMC, I saw that Zach Korsyk, the Delta Math creator, was presenting. I went to his session and saw how simple it was to use. Some lessons have interactive tutorials that are better than activities I’ve been doing. Quadrilateral properties and combining like terms both blew my mind.

Zach also explained that students don't have the same problems so they can't copy. It's a very clean and simple UI and works intuitively the way you think it would. You can assign penalties so students have to work more problems or you can just specify the amount of questions they need to get correct. There are 1000s of questions for topics ranging from middle school math through precalc and stats. It even explains how to get the correct answer after they miss it. And it's FREE. And he's a full time teacher. And he answers technical support almost immediately on Twitter.

I was sold.

Today ended our first week of school and I administered our EOC exams (I always do it on the first Friday so I can spend that day planning the first 'real' week #hack) and when they finished, they did their first Delta Math assignment.  For the most part students were working quietly. I got one "This is so cool" and the only question they had was how to type in exponents (^).

I specified that they had to get 5 questions right from 5 different topics: combining like terms, solving 3-step linear equations, plotting points, converting standard to scientific notation, and vice versa. I don't plan to normally give them time in class to do it but I wanted to the first time to make sure we didn't have any problems. I titled the assignment Week #1 and assigned the same assignment to Algebra I through Trig courses.

Afterward I went and talked to my principal (former math teacher) about it and he was very supportive. I needed to talk through logistics with someone but I really only came away with him saying he thought it could even be the same amount of points as a regular quiz in class because it was still assessing their learning and not just a completion grade.

So here's my idea:
  • First couple weeks will be pre-algebra and middle school skills
  • Then I will start to lag skills from their current course in addition to pre-algebra skills
  • Pre-algebra skills stay all year
  • Current skills lag and randomly reappear
  • Ideally I'd like them to spend about 15 minutes a week on this
  • Although you can use it on your phone, I don't have 100% home internet access so I want them to be reasonably able to complete at school when they get done early in other classes
Here are my questions:
  • Normal quizzes are 15-20 points twice a week, tests are 100 points every 2.5-3 weeks, how much should this weekly assignment be worth? 
  • How many problems should I require them to get correct?
  • How many topics should I include?
  • How do I determine the points?
My principal also made a good point that I had not considered: he said we need to give them a win. If you start a new course and you're not doing well from the beginning, it's depressing. But if they are getting (old) stuff correct in delta math then it is building their confidence and reminding them that they do know things.

Help me figure out this out before Monday :)


Pet Peeves

My biggest pet peeves are mostly little things:

  • Not standing the binders up correctly on the bookshelf
  • Wasting tape or taping random things that I then have to scrape off
  • Stealing my pencils!!
I handled them by making a big deal out of them all the first week and putting them in my Back to School Kahoot as well. The more I talk about them, the more it rubs off on students and they help me monitor too. 

Students have already been coming in and asking if I still have all my pencils and so far so good with the binders. I switched from tape dispensers to tape runners and that helped some. Although some people haven't figured out how to use the tape runners and ruined the refills inside to the point I don't even know how to fix them? 

So there's that.

But something else keeps coming up and I'm not sure how to deal with it.

I pride myself on my relationships with students and building a positive classroom culture. Two Nice Things, Shoutouts. Celebrating birthdays. Compliments. Decor. Organization. Smells good in my room. 

But I haven't completely made the classroom a safe place. My group of juniors this year are split for the first time. The past two years the class was super quiet and it was like pulling teeth to talk. This year my fifth hour class is super talkative and my sixth hour class is like medium talkative. But the fifth hour class, unprompted, have already told me how much better this class is, how it's so laid back, how they will definitely ask questions this year, etc, etc.

When I probed further, I found it was basically because of two students that they felt uncomfortable. They were afraid to ask questions or give wrong answers because they didn't want to be made fun of. Once I was aware of this, I noticed that those two who are in my sixth hour have been teasing each other and two other people in their friend group. Not about math and not being mean but the other six students are pretty quiet and I feel like they are already picking up on the fact that they might be next to get teased. While I appreciate talkative students and having a good laugh, I don't want to do that at the expense of someone else or their learning.

So...now what? How do I approach those two? First of all, I would definitely have to do it separately because together it would be a hilarious joke. Right now we are commenting through Google Classroom so that's one way I could privately address it. Is that appropriate? I'm not good at "hallway talks". 

I don't even know what to say. But I know that the change I've seen in just one week from the previous year means that this first week could have a big impact on the rest of this year for my sixth hour class.

In the past when I've tried talking to some 'troublemakers' and talked about how they are a leader and their behavior affects others and the class, it's almost inflated their ego and I usually get some kind of response like "It's not my fault they follow me" or "I never asked to be a leader" etc and so I gave up on that perspective. I also feel that being too 'touchy feely' for lack of a better word is not my style and wouldn't come across sincere.

And then after whatever speech I give, how do I follow up?

I can already sense that they would blow it off and say they are just having fun, their friends know their kidding, etc etc. But I don't want to assume.

How do you address the strong personalities in your class when they make others uncomfortable?


INB Math Tools Pocket and Fold Out Flap

I usually start off my INBs with a Table of Contents on the first page but I don't want to start page numbers until I actually start math skills.

To change it up, I created a Math Tools Pocket. On the outside I had them color. On the inside is a mathematical smartness survey and the right side asks them to write down their Delta math password and Remind code (Thanks Julie).

The above picture shows the Calculator Tips strips we used today. Anytime we have a 'tutorial' so to speak, I plan to make them on strips to store in the pocket.

Here is the file:

Fonts are Zengo and Covered by your grace.

On the back cover we tape a fold out flap so they can see perfect squares, cubes, and fourths withouth flipping back and forth. The other side talks about growth mindset.

Here's the file:

Font is Digs My Hart.

The Calculator Tips strips came from TpT and then I added some parts that I wanted. Here is the link and I just used the snipping tool and resized them to make strips.

Everyone got the two strips and then I passed out a handout for them to practice. This is also a good way to see who can follow directions and work independently.

Here is the file of just the part I added to the TpT file:

Fonts are HelloKennedy and HelloBestDay

And here is the handout:

Last but not least, for the first time I had students use pen and copy this labeling template so they know how I want all pages labeled forever. Color coded.