#5Things My Career Bucket List

  1. I would love to be a math instructional coach, even just for my district with one elementary, one middle, and one high school math teacher. I see a lot of a value in noticing trends and implementing strategies district-wide.
  2. In the future I want to teach at the university level. I really hated my education program and left feeling very unprepared and it's supposed to be a good program. I only had two classes that I felt helped at all. I would love to basically take my blog to 4D and just help teachers learn how to teach and how to love teaching.
  3. I've always wanted to write a book and I sure don't know what else I would write about besides teaching. I imagine it as a book of stories with pictures included and downloadable activities and links to my blog.
  4. I want to be a National Board Certified Teacher. I would be the first teacher in the history of my school to accomplish it. Of course stupid Illinois had to take away the stipend. :( But the teachers I know through twitter and blogging that are NBCTs are some of the most reflective, thoughtful, thorough, and creative teachers I've ever seen.
  5. I want to be wealthy. I know it probably won't come through teaching but I just feel like it will happen some day, some way. I want to give back to my community and school. We are the poorest county in the entire state of Illinois. I would like to do things that other schools have, like 1:1 technology programs, new sports equipment/uniforms, a track and football field, pool, aerobics room, and senior class trips. I'd like to build a rec center in the community and have scholarships for students to go to college and for extras like dorm room supplies and a laptop. I just want to make life better for everyone around me.

What's on your bucket list?


Geometry Game Play

Last year I found an activity from a sample textbook series that I really like for geometry terms.

I bought foam circles from the Dollar Tree and wrote letters on them with Sharppies. Then I used magnetic tape and 3M tape to post the circles around the classroom.

The textbook even shows how to set it up.

Here's what it looked like for me:

I included the game at the end of this worksheet done in class:

It goes with this powerpoint where students were given descriptions and had to draw a diagram, then looked at diagrams and had to labeled them.


Interactive Notebook Calculator Activity

I'm calling this an INB activity but this does not fit in the INB. This is my first activity where students had to constantly refer to the calculator hints we wrote in their INB.

It covers reducing fractions, operations with fractions, graphing equations, zooming, and adjusting the window.

This accomplished exactly what I wanted. Every time students asked me a question, I would just point to the place in their notebook and then they would say "Oh". After first period, I started having them highlight the directions because so many people just skipped right over them.

They got the hang of it after a while and overall, this activity took 20-25 minutes.

Some students got frustrated with me when I answered every question with "Look in your notebook". On closer inspection, that's because those students didn't write everything down. Ah, another life lesson.

My main priority was reading and following directions, learning calculator steps was just a bonus.

Made 4 Math Monday: Equation Wheels

I actually saw this idea on Pinterest and there wasn't really an electronic version. So of course I made my own...and there's still not an electronic version. lol It's just easier to write it than to try to type it in a wheel.

The yellow wheel is One-Step Equations and the pink is Two-Step Equations. There is an equation on each spoke of the wheel and the answer to the equation is on a clothes pin.

On the back of each clothes pin is a symbol and on the back of each spoke is a different set of symbols. I used this in summer school for 7th graders and they worked together, taking turns solving equations and matching the answer to the equation.

Of course if they get an answer that is not on a clothes pin or if that clothes pin is already clipped somewhere, it's time to discuss and rework some problems.

When the wheel is complete, students turn it over and I give them the answer key to check the symbols.

Here is the file for blank wheels, as this could definitely be used for many concepts. If you figure out an easy way to type in the wheel, let me know. :)


Day 5-7 Interactive Notebook Setup and Memes!

When I read other people's posts about setting up their INB's in 45 minutes, I feel bad because it took me 3 times that. But I did a lot of cool stuff, got a lot of good feedback, and it's only my first time.

I have 94 students and I probably provided half that number of notebooks to students but I did charge them $.50. That's just so I could go buy more. I told them every day for 5 days that they needed them. I explained that I provide everything else, literally. I even give them pencils. But I asked them to get their own notebooks because I wanted them to pick something they liked and that was a reflection of their personality.

Here is some of my supplies set-up. We did pencil holders, bookmarks, plickers, pockets, and rubber bands,

I also had a tub of milkshake straws and duct tape and a crate of ribbon.

I made a cutesy powerpoint and basically went through it slide by slide.

I don't really know why it took so long but oh well.

Some of my favorite comments from the students were:

"I didn't even know you could do all this to a notebook!"

"I've never been this organized in my life. My mom would be so proud of me."

"Ms. Miller, you are the bomb. You buy us all kinds of cute stuff."

"Ms. Miller, why you gotta be so fancy with your notebooks?"

(After taping in foldables) "So are we ever going to put notes in here?" Me: "Yes, foldables, like what we just put in there." "But like real notes? Like are we going to write in them?"

"Where do you get all these ideas, Pinterest?" Me: "Yes." "So you like, sit at home and look up teaching ideas on Pinterest?" Me: "Yes." I had to laugh because my teaching board on pinterest is called Teaching Ideas. lol

And a lot of students asked me if I would come to college with them to organize their life and decorate their dorm rooms. I would love to!

Overall, students, okay female students, loved the decorating and matching the tape to the stickers to the pencil and so on. They were excited to show them off to other students and describe how pretty they are.

In case you didn't look through my powerpoint, here are my first sets of pages.

Table of Contents

Page 1-2
First, I did calculator hints.
This was my first example of CWP, Color With Purpose, and their first assignment will be a calculator worksheet where they have to refer to their INB, to promote the idea of it being a tool.

Page 3-4
I changed my syllabus from my earlier post to one with lots of fun memes...well I thought it was fun and I did get some laughs out of my classes. And the RHP was Sarah Rubin's Top 5

Page 5-6
And then I retyped Sarah Rubin's Learning Style Survey. We had some decent conversations about the differences in how we learn and study. But I definitely could have went more in depth with those. And the RHP was also Sarah's idea of having them illustrate four of the learning suggestions.

Here are the document downloads:

Calculator Hints

Classroom Expectations (Syllabus)

Learning Style Survey

And that wraps up my first full week of school!


Day 4 Activities and My Year 6 Classroom

Day 4 was our mandatory first administration of end of course exams.

And...that's all I have to say about that.

Now time for the fun stuff....decorations!

I'm starting with my classroom door and then going around in a circle...I mean slice of an octagon.

My sign at the top says Teacher of Awesome and by "awesome" I mean "math"

I clip the menu, calendar, ineligible list, and after school detention list to the door.

My exit ticket tubs and function family poster.

My chevron bulletin board...I think I might make it an Instagram board!

My magnetic borders around the white board and our birthday magnets.

My desk- clutter free!

My Post-It Note To-Do List 

Assignment cover slips for each period

Teacher binders, textbooks, and class period bins.

My mod podge coasters!

Chevron filing cabinet drawers 

Ugly metal cabinets covered in wrapping paper.

Polka dot foam magnets, chevron clip boards and clock, and fringe!

All together now!



Day 3 Activities

Today the board asked students to choose a binder, then use a dry erase marker to number their desk 1-10.

I came around with Washi tape and Sharpies to label their binders. Last year I used white mailing labels and they were terrible to peel off. Washi tape is much better and so much prettier!

Next we moved into Mental Math Monday. Next week we will have a paper template but for this week they just wrote on the desk. This is still one of my all time favorite routines.

Students reading directions is one of my soapboxes. I don't read or repeat directions or answer questions that are easily answered in the directions. So my main activity started with them reading.

Our main activity for the day was Saving Sam.

This is the setup. Which is 100% intriguing to students. I didn't answer any questions about it until we started. Drove them nuts.

Here are the directions.

Some of the things I was looking for throughout the activity were: students who came up with creative solutions, students who did not give up easily, students who could take direction from their partner, students who could give direction, students who could work together, students who could FOLLOW DIRECTIONS.

I was pretty happy with the results but the packet could have been shortened or avoided all together. Although I loved watching students write their steps and draw illustrations. To me, this enforced the norms of showing your work, reflecting, and overcoming obstacles.

Day 2 Activities

Students already know where they sit so today the screen asks them to get a sharpie and a foam magnet.

The foam shapes came from Hobby Lobby and Dollar Tree. I cut magnetic tape into tiny pieces and stuck it on the back.

I put the stuff in a chair in front of a white board. I drew an arrow toward it. It was in the front of the room. And students who haven't had me before really struggled in finding the supplies. ?????

They wrote their name and birthday on the front and their favorite candy on the back. Then they had to put them in order by month on the board. And each hour, our collection grew.

 I look at it and think, What kind of data do we have? What can we do with this?

While they were writing, I played this first day back video. I thought it was hilarious. They were slightly amused. I just love Emmanuel Hudson videos in general but I'm sure it's an acquired taste.

Next up was my awesome powerpoint. I introduced it by saying that they don't know me that well and I don't know them, so I will start with 28 reasons why I'm awesome and then they get to tell me why they're awesome.

My first hour was SO. AWKWARD. I don't know them and they literally just stared at me. I cracked jokes. Nothing. Funny stories. Nothing. Embarrassing moments. Nothing. I felt like my idea was the dumbest idea ever.

But after doing it five more times, I loved it! It was really a conversation, students commented and had a lot of questions and smiles. I'm from here and when I started teaching, my two sisters were in high school with me so I take it for granted what students know about me. I'm used to them knowing everything about me but now that's it been six years, some of them don't know me at all. I thought it would be lame with my trig class because they've had me for years and know me really well. But...we talked and told stories so much that we ran out of time.

After the powerpoint I gave them a pop quiz. On me!

My purpose was twofold. 1, to enforce another norm of paying attention and being observant. 2, to connect with students on a more personal level right from the beginning. I really really really think that this was a great investment in my students for the rest of the year. This took about 30-35 minutes depending on how much the students interact. And speaking of interacting, I did put some slides that had blanks and asked students to fill in the blank.

Now comes the part where they tell me about themselves. I had a different idea for this but I was up until 2 AM making the powerpoint and I even spelled my own name wrong in the quiz so um...maybe next year?

I went with the Dan Meyer classic, Who I Am, which I've done every year of my career.

If I had any time left, I asked them what would make this year a good experience for them, without naming any past teachers.

Here's what I heard every hour. "Can you actually explain things to us before giving us a worksheet?" "Can you explain things more than once?"  One girl said she needed both to see it worked out and hear it explained. I love that she made that observation about herself.

These were great activities to do on a Friday to end the first 'week' of school. 

Thanks to @jdmahlstedt for the original idea of telling students why you're awesome!


First Days 2014-2015

Thursday was our first day of school. We do this weird thing where students are split up into grades and rotate around the school to hear teachers talk about expectations- dress code, behaviors, etc and pass out schedules and handbooks and such. So we do this 1st-3rd hour and then students go to their regular classes for 4th-7th hour. It's a 2:15 day so we skip 8th hour.

Since I only had half of my classes, I couldn't do all the fun things I wanted to do with everyone so I picked two alternative activities.

When students came into the room, each group of desks had a clipboard with the names of the four people who should sit there. I had a slide up on the screen that asked them to find their name and then find a seat.

At each seat was an index card. Welcome to the Cup Challenge.

#1 asked that student to get supplies: a stack of cups, a rubber band tool, and an envelope (it's to the right in the picture).

#2 person had to open the envelope and read the directions.

#3 person had to start the activity by setting up the cups in the "starting" position.

Then comes the fun. Students have to pull the strings tied to the rubber band so that it will stretch big enough to go over the cup. Then they have to maneuver carefully so that they don't knock the cups over. When they have to flip the cups, they have to trade strings or figure out some way to do it.

Once they achieved the pyramid, they had to return the cups to the starting position, also with the tool. Then I gave them four more cups. Two were the same size and two were smaller. Now they had to make a pyramid with 4 on the bottom, 3, 2, 1. 

The truth is that I just used the cups I had. But the smaller cups added an extra challenge. The only way to make it work is if the 2 small cups are the two cups before the last one is placed on top. A lot of students didn't realize this until they got to the top and then had to adjust.

After that, I had them unstack the whole pyramid and flip it over. 

I enforced the no hands policy, even if they knocked the cup in the floor. The whole team had to use the tool on the floor to pick up. They started to get creative and use their forearms and and feet but had to use the tool to place the cups in the pyramids.

#4 student had to put all the supplies back neatly.

The best part was the discussion. I asked them what was the point of the activity and what it had to do with math. Most of the responses were team work, strategy, keep trying, not giving up, etc.

This took about 25 minutes.

Next I asked them to pair up. I thought it was interesting that most students didn't move and chose to work with the people in their original group. I think that the first activity was it's own kind of icebreaker because no one was perfect at it, they laughed, they got frustrated, they kept at it. That vibe fed into the next activity and took away the awkwardness of working with people you may not have chosen for yourself.

This activity is called Chain Gang and is more suited for elementary I guess but I enjoyed it. The students had one piece of construction paper scissors, and tape to make the longest paper chain possible. They got pretty competitive and were whispering and hiding their chains so others couldn't see the length. It worked out every class period that they had only about 10 minutes to work. They had to split up the work to get done in enough time. Then we laid them out to find the longest....

Even I as amazed at how different the lengths were when they all started with one sheet of paper. Again we discussed the point of the activity and what was the best strategy to make the longest length.

The one word that no one mentioned was communication. Why does that seem to always be lacking?

Anyway, these two activities took up the 47 minute class period easily and all students were engaged. I was walking around almost bursting inside....why can't my math class look like this every day? I've GOT to do more activities so math doesn't seem so boring.

These activities also set up some class norms without putting them into writing...in this class we work all class period, we talk, we work together, we think we try different methods, we compare our results, we discuss, we persevere, we clean up after ourselves, and we can still have a good time.

And sometimes we make pretties.