Coming Attractions: New Year Resolutions

Since my school has received this school improvement grant, I plan to work my butt off this summer to take full advantage of my instructional coach.

I decided to go ahead and start my list so that as soon as school ends, I know exactly where to start. (Some are ideas and things I don't need to create or that I can't do until school starts.)

What I Want For Next Year
  1. Binders I don't use textbooks so everything is a worksheet/handout and they are everywhere. I am too anal to let this continue. So everyone will have binders with dividers and a little bag to hold all of their supplies in. My AP suggested making them classroom binders to keep things simple. I can have a weekly TA who's job is to come in and immediately pass them out. I just want to get rid of bottle neck traffic jams.
  2. Writing/Blogging I need to incorporate way more reading and writing. I don't know to make it work time-wise but I want each student to write a blog and comment on others' as well. I have Nonfiction Writing Prompts from the Write to Know Series for Algebra and Geometry to use as a starting place. How can I make it all work?
  3. Develop Class Writing/Blogging Rubric I definitely want to assess these blogs but I would like to use examples of their own writing to have students help me create a rubric based on what they think is important in their writing. So as a class we will model critiquing and feedback to develop a rubric so that students can then self-assess, peer-tutor, or just understand my assessment process better.
  4. Visual Procedure Rubrics Speaking of rubrics, I want to take pictures of important procedures that we do all the time in class. For example: paying attention in class. I would take 3 different pictures. When students were acting appropriately that would be a 1, when some are off task would be a 2, and chaos would be a 3. Then I can post pictures of the most important procedures and easily assess them: "Class you're at a 2 and I need you at a 1." Everyone knows what is expected.
  5. Practice Procedures/Transitions I plan to spend the beginning of class literally practicing procedures and timing students on transitions until we can quickly and efficiently move from place to place, task to task, without losing so much instructional time. This is where the visual rubrics will come into play. As we practice, I can photograph each stage and use as a reminder.
  6. Math/Art/Writing Projects I'd like to develop an art project involving math for every unit or every other unit as a motivator to get work done correctly and efficiently in class to make time to work on their project. Obviously it would be something I would grade and display, it would appeal to kinesthetic and visual learners, it would hopefully tie concepts together, and make class a little more enjoyable. If I can do it, I'd like to create a project per unit which may include art, writing, 'inventing', etc.
  7. Formal Team Roles I've been doing group work without really holding students accountable. It has helped in some ways because they are teaching each other but I know so much more could be done. I basically want to follow Riley Lark's structure because I love how clearly it is explained. As we practice procedures, we can easily model the roles described here.
  8. Formatives With Clickers I recently started using clickers and the students love it but it hasn't been super useful to me yet. I've been using them on bell ringers and exit slips as a way to hopefully guide my instruction. It is cool to watch but we waste time waiting for people to click and obviously some still guess. So next year, I want to have formative already developed on slides so students can easily click and I will know what to do with that information.
  9. Display Team Results Combining the previous two, I want to use the data from our formatives and summatives to compare teams within classes. I tried this by comparing two periods but then one period just called themselves the slower class. So someone suggested I compare teams with a class which makes sense, especially because students will rotate teams. My clicker software has awesome 3d graphs which would be easy to print and display. In color.
  10. Write Multiple Versions of Every Assessment In order to make sbg finally work for me, I HAVE to do this.
  11. Remediation/Scaffolded Worksheets I want to have these made so that if students do not make my cut off score (I'm thinking 80%) then I immediately have a worksheet for them to complete before retesting. I will have examples worked out plus answers to the problems they complete on their own so that they can self check. I hope to use Nasco's Algebra 1 and Geometry Worksheets for that.
  12. Index Card Flip Charts I'm totally stealing Julie's idea because some of my kids are so obsessed with taking notes. I need to do this because I give so much paper since I don't use textbooks. Plus, I'm requiring binders so it will be very easy to keep things organized. Also, in my notes/homework/investigations I can point students back to a particular concept that they need to remember. And what a great tool to study for final exams!
  13. Math Dictionary On that same note, my friend over at Ms. Mathemagician has her students make their own math dictionary on a key ring. I can't remember the specifics (hint, hint, *blog post* cough, cough) but I think she gives a weekly vocab quiz. Mix that with an idea from @graceachen, who lets students use a certain amount of cards on the quiz but less and less cards as time goes on until they are not using any cards at all.
  14. Embed Review at Appropriate Places I want do this right now because I love lists so much but I want to make a list of the units I need to teach broken down into prerequisite skills and new skills. From there, I can start each unit by reviewing the appropriate material and leading into the new material. Hopefully, I can eliminate wasting much of the first quarter reviewing and get into the real focus of Algebra I.
  15. Performance Events On the one hand, I want to love sbg because I love breaking things down into manageable pieces and simplifying and organizing. On the other hand, I love investigations that tie things together in a neat package. If I'm going to try sbg skill tests again, I want to somehow incorporate performance events which will tie concepts together and definitely hit that critical thinking gap where students need to be familiar with multi-step problems. Maybe skill quizzes could be short and frequent and then every so often (end of unit, every 3 weeks, etc?) we have a performance event accompanied by a write-up that would serve more as a 'test' than quiz.
I know someone will tell me to pick one or two things to focus on and build on those but I don't have time for all that. I have resources available that I might never have again. I'm going to do my best to get as much done as I can. I will crash and burn on my own at some point so please don't discourage me ahead of time.

Don't steal my fire; just let me burn!


  1. Can you give some examples of the writing prompts from the Write to Know Series? Amazon doesn't have any reviews or a "search inside" for them, but I would love to know more.

    And this time of year is when I'm feeling motivated to try a million new things, too, so I say plan for as many of them as you can while that drive is there! :)

  2. I always love the last part of the school year, because I see it as a time to experiment with some things that I plan on implementing for the following year, or to try extra creative, possibly floppy lessons. It's a good trial run period, because kids are kind of tired of the same-old and they are also looking for something new, even if that "new" thing doesn't reach its full promise the first time around.

    By the way, I meant to say that I like the idea of having an on-going project to motivate kids in class. At my old school, we had block scheduling for middle-schoolers. Another teacher I knew always did algebra skills for the first half of the class and spent the second half on some on-going math projects. (Her class was project-based math for low-level kids.) The kids thrived under the structure, and she really liked it as well! She would always play transition music for them, and one time I covered her class while she was absent, and the kids were humming the music in unison as we switched modes! Hysterical!!


  3. praxisofreflection,
    Actually I retyped both books just so I could share them. So here is
    and here is

    Unfortunately I do not have block scheduling so I'm not quite sure how to make this work. We have 45 minute periods and I run out of time every day. I'm thinking if it's a unit long project that maybe they can work on it during homeroom time and on their own and then maybe I give them a day or two in class to finish them up? I have no idea how to make it work. My teacher friend suggested just doing one a quarter for the first year of implementation but of course I always want to fly forward instead of walk. Maybe you should connect me to the teacher from your old school so I can steal her project ideas!

  4. I say go for it with your multitude of ideas, Elissa. Yes, it's ambitious and chances are you won't be able to do everything, but you may end up doing A LOT more than I or anyone else thinks is possible.

    I came across this a couple months ago

    15 Minute Math Labs

    and found the demonstrations intriguing. It's on my current wish list, so maybe it's one option for you to incorporate discovery lessons into the classroom without taking up a whole class period.

    Paul Hawking
    The Challenge of Teaching Math
    Latest Post:
    Virtual Library of Review Games: 5 new review games added

  5. Thanks for the link, looks promising! Although with a 45 minute class period, the 15 minute lab will most likely take the whole time but I'm not necessarily opposed to that.

    I'll add it to the list!

  6. @misscalcu8 I emailed the teachers... Hopefully they'll still have those files! (One of them is now teaching high school science; not sure what the other one is teaching these days.)

  7. Thanks for posting those! I generally include at least some questions like those in my quizzes/tests, but it is great to have additional ideas.

  8. Hey I got one project - got an email address? You can DM me on twitter with it and I'll send it along. (I'm not sure why my friend only had one; maybe this is the only one that's handy...)

  9. You're welcome and thank you!

  10. Elissa and Mimi - I would love the link for the projects too.

    If you do the notecards, be SURE to have the kids write the concept on every card. When we were summing it all up last week, several kids did not have the concept numbers on all of their cards. Also, some kids lose them so we are doing a project on Flash Card Machine where each student types the flashcard for one or two concepts. That way we will have an online class database of index cards by concept. This will be great for kids who lose the cards, and for next year (hopefully).

  11. Julie,
    I've been wanting to talk to you about the concept cards. My students never used our notes to study and they were constantly throwing things away. I feel like using the concept cards will give them something tangible to study and hold on to from this class. How do you implement these? Do you take class time to do it? Do you have a routine where everyone does it at the same time? Do you give them examples or do they make their own? I just had a lightbulb idea! What if it was part of the assessment? Like they have to create the card and turn it in with their assessment and then you could check and correct it to make sure everyone has all the needed information? Them pass both back together. What do you think?

  12. My students did not take notes in a notebook this year. They only took them on the notecards. I included them in my Powerpoints during lectures. I will send you one as an example. The definition was on the front, and an example on the back (or a term on the front and a definition on the back).

    The long term problems are that many kids don't keep them organized or they lose them. I had them make "flip charts" for each set after the chapter was over, and that helped! But if a kid was absent on flip chart day, making that up was a low priority for them. I am now having the students type them into Flash Card Machine this week so that we will have a “class set” of online index cards.

    I'd love to talk about this more with you as I am re-configuring this system for next year. I could use some fresh ideas!

  13. Here are pics of two of my PPT slides, http://ispeakmath.wordpress.com/2010/05/03/how-to-study-index-card-method-linking-it-to-standards-based-learning/

    at the bottom. I also do worked out examples on some cards. it always varies.