First Days 2017-2018 #MTBoS12Days

Day One; Friday

Our first day is a 1:00 dismissal and this year we requested that we get to see all of our classes which meant short 23 minute periods with every class then lunch and done.

I wrote on the board: "Pick your seat for the next two weeks." I make them fill the front up first but otherwise don't move them. This let's me see right away who cannot handle sitting next to each other. We switch every two weeks but I don't let them pick again until the last two weeks of school.

On the Smart board I have directions for them to go get a star cutout and write their name, birthday, and favorite candy on it. This shows me how well and how quickly they can follow multiple directions and helps them start finding their way around the room.

While they're doing that I passed out address labels with my Remind code and number printed on them and explained how I use the app. I also showed them a composition notebook and explained how we use them and what type they needed and to please get that for Monday.

I literally explained each drawer of my cart and how to read the labels instead of pulling out every drawer and talked about how much I loved my room and my things and to beg ask them to please help me take care of it.

Finally I shut up and passed out "Back to School Bingo". I made cards (.docx, .pptx) that were 4x4 with common summer activities listed and they had to sign their name by one they did, then go stand and talk to someone else, listen to their story, and sign their name on a box until all of their boxes were full. When I noticed a lull in conversation, I brought them back to their seats and asked each one to share something about someone else.

I then made a huge deal out of how I never give homework except for today. See Sara's post.

That filled 23 minutes and promoted my values: routines, procedures, interest in others, conversation, movement, sharing with the class, and connecting.

Day Two; Monday

Today we start setting up our binders and notebooks, get our first dry erase marker of the year and do our first Mental Math Monday of a year's worth of bell ringers.

We also used our chrome book set for the first time today, logging onto Google classroom and entering our correct answers for MMM as well as typing our responses from Friday's homework.

If you didn't read Sara's post from above, then this won't make much sense but I connected the idea of patterns with the pictures of 6 different mathematicians (.pptx). The big reveal was actually telling them that they were all mathematicians which led to my "Not Just Dead White Dudes" bulletin board.

Day Three; Tuesday

Today we tried out my first Doodle Infographic syllabus (.docx, key, pptx). The syllabus is always a weird moment for me because the freshmen know nothing about me or my classes but the seniors have had me four years in a row and know me better than I know myself. I feel like the Doodle part was helpful because seniors could enjoy coloring while hearing me say things they already knew.

Day Four-Six; Wednesday-Friday

Every year I do this and every year I could do it better. I tried another one of Sara's ideas, Top 10 things not to ask me about your calculator. I make TI-84 cut outs and we color code notes and tips on how to use the buttons. One calculator and the left skinny side of this doc go on the left side of the INB and the right larger side of this doc goes on the right side of the INB. (key, .pptx)

Weekly Wrap-Up

One more post from Sara that I highly recommend is on using name tents to communicate with students every single day of the first week. At such a small school, I know everyone's names before they even get to me so instead of using name tents, I had students private comment on a google classroom post. After the first week I switch to two weekly wrap-up questions. One is silly and the other a little more serious but both random, non-academic, and not required. I post them on Sunday night and students have all week to answer. I remind them to answer on Fridays and then over the weekend I read and respond to all 85 on my phone. This is just a way to open up the lines of communication and touch base with every single student at least once a week. If you aren't going to respond, don't do it all. If weekly is too much then try every other but my strong advice is to TRY SOMETHING.

Also, do anything Sara VanDerWerf says.


Reaching "That Kid" #MTBoS12Days


I can't say it enough. Students repeatedly tell/write me how having a teacher that treats them like a real person, who cares about their life outside of school, who can laugh with them, and who cares about their day really makes the difference.

I didn't start out my career knowing that this is a strength of mine but once I realized it I try to put it into words as often as I can for those who might need some suggestions.

Every Monday, ask every class if they want to talk about their weekend. It will be weird at first but I'm sure you have a talkative class clown kind of student who will get it started. Every once in a while go around and ask each student individually. You don't want to put them on the spot but you also want to show you're including them. You'll know you've made progress when the students' start to ask you about your weekend and when they get offended if you forget to ask (or don't ask quickly enough).

Every Friday, ask a weekly wrap-up question that isn't academic. I do random, one silly, one with a little more meaning. I did these on paper for the last few years and now currently use Google Classroom. I also read and respond to every single one so there is a time commitment but I'd say it takes me about an hour to do 85 and since it's on my phone, I can always find the time. It's a great way to find out more about students, ensure you make contact with every single student at least once a week, and opens a door for more serious conversations when needed.

Celebrate their birthdays. I buy candy for every student on their birthday but I understand I am weird. At the very least, write on the board or announce it to the class. Dollar Tree makes a chair cover that says Happy Birthday. I also let students sit in my comfy rolly chair. For summer birthdays, we celebrate half-birthdays. It's the day they feel most special so it's weird for someone they see every day to not acknowledge it.

. Now I don't give compliments if I don't mean them but I try to give them out as often as I can. This again shows students that you notice them and they matter more to you than a test score or a warm body. I start out with appearance/wardrobe compliments and then get more personal about their work ethic or abilities or personality. I also find it weird when students ask me if I dyed/cut my hair and then they just stare at me and walk away. Maybe they need to be taught how to give compliments? lol Also if a student directly asks me if I like or noticed something and I don't, I immediately respond with a question. Do you like it? When did you get it done? Where did you get it? Don't hesitate- then can smell fear.

Ask the class how their day was, how it's going, or how was lunch. Ask their opinions on school activities or events coming up. This seems so silly to even type out. Treat them with basic human dignity and kindness please.

And my number one tip, ask random questions. I know that it seems like I've already touched on this subject but for some of my more annoying and loud students, this has worked the best. I seek them out in the hallway or randomly through class and just ask them a random question. Literally anything. And I do this consistently until it seems like a game to them. And then they start seeking me out for 'today's random question'. I don't know why but maybe it takes the pressure off of the teacher-student relationship? It gives us something silly to laugh about? It shows that I'm seeking them out?

While I can't think of anything I've done that just completely turned around a kid's behavior, I know that these strategies have made our classroom culture more enjoyable, given me way more laughs and good moments, makes me looking forward to seeing my students again, and makes classroom management problems few and far between.


Angle of Elevation and Depression

I posted a matching pieces activity for angle of elevation and depression for my #teach180 on Twitter and I can't believe I haven't already posted about this.

I start this lesson with the following INB notes:

We do a few more dry erase problems on the desk, which you can find in the PowerPoint or Notebook file below.

Then I passed out the pieces to cut. I gave them two minutes to cut. Only after that did I give them the handout. We sorted before they every got to glue. They are pretty easy to match up based on the numbers alone.

There is one error where a 140 should be a 1400. I found all of this stuff online and tried to make it my style. The answer keys are there but I only used 9 of the problems and in a different order. I don't suggest handing out or displaying the answer key.

Since there are only 8 pieces and 9 problems, they will have to draw in the one without a piece. Mostly this helps them 'see' the right triangle. 

I gave them 2 minutes to glue and then we did #6 and #8 together because they were tricky. They do the rest on their own. Depending on how that goes, I have another handout for more practice.

Everything is available for download below!



Teacher Hacks and Organizing

Hacks might be one of my favorite things ever! They are so genius and make my heart happy.

Digital Teacher Hacks

  • Microsoft Word
    • always use narrow margins
    • use the footer to number handouts
    • insert white shapes to cover things up if you can't crop it
    • use text boxes to keep things organized and move things exactly where you want
  • Folders
    • make a new folder for each school year
    • inside that make a folder for each prep
    • inside that make a folder for each unit
    • inside that label things with the skill number, ie 1 Function Composition INB, 1 Function Composition Card Sort, Skill 1 Quiz
    • I also make folders for INB, Procedures, and the First Week
    • I have Student Council and Cheer folders but not inside school year folders since I do them every year
  • Excel
    • I create a 'Curriculum Notes' spreadsheet with a new tab for each course; list out every unit and skill and then next to it I make notes about things to fix/change/add
    • I have an EOC spreadsheet with a new tab for each period; I list their scores from August, December, and May; I have a column for number correct and percentage; then I show growth from Aug-Dec, Dec-May, and Aug-May; also show class averages for each of those columns; (makes really nice graphs for teacher evaluation binders)
  • PowerPoint
    • I made a blank slide with a chevron border at the top and bottom of the slide. I save this as a template and use it for every powerpoint I create. I know it's a bit much but it matches my room and I feel like it ties everything together.
    • Print your slides to your Smart Notebook printer and it automatically converts them for you. My Smartboard won't let me write on powerpoints so I have to do it.
    • Since I can't use animations, I duplicate slides and add answers or whatever so that in Smart Notebook I can advance to the next slide without animations
  • Classroom
    • Use it for everything!
    • Post links or directions
    • Use one form for daily bell ringers and delete the responses every week
    • I post an announcement with my 'weekly wrap-up' of two random questions. I number it with the week and I change the number of questions too. Students respond in private comments and we will keep the conversation going all year.
    • Post the weekly Marbleslide challenge
    • Move the bell ringer post to the top every week
  • Websites
    • Kahoot
    • Quizlet
    • Egg.Timer
    • Desmos
Classroom Hacks
  • More Time basket- this has saved my sanity and my desk from being covered in papers. I have a green basket labeled Grade Me and a blue basket labeled More Time. If the bell rings before students finish a quiz/test, it goes in the blue basket until the next day.
  • I made laminated letters that say Date and Q/T and hung them with magnets on the board. I also made laminated numbers with magnets so I can change the date every day. And yes they're chevron. under Q/T I write students who were absent for a quiz/test. I write their name on the quiz/test paper and then put it this top wall bin. I decorated the bin with scrapbook paper and washi tape. The bottom mail bin is for random papers or mail that I don't know where to put. Just say no to paper piles!

  • This hanging file organizer has one slot for each period. I put handouts for absent students in the folder so that they stand up straight and don't bend over.
  • Decorate your whiteboards with bulletin board borders. The space is wasted anyway and it really brightens up the room. Magnets were too heavy so I use foam stickies.
  • I use these Sterilite drawers daily. One drawer for each period, a drawer of card stock, a drawer of INB extra, a draw of manila folders/page protectors, and a drawer for random leftover stuff.
  • I make a binder for each course for answer keys only. I print new originals every year in case I need to change titles or page numbers. I also found these cute paper holders at Dollar Tree last year. I use colorful paper for each different unit in our INBs.

  • I print and laminate tabs for each unit in our INBs. I bought this pill box from Dollar Tree and covered it with duck tape and stickers. It's the perfect size to hold my tabs.
  • I have an activity tub for each unit in each course. I am in the process of re-labeling and reorganizing them , and etc in there.
  • Use a screw organizer from Lowe's to organize your classroom essentials. 
  • Decorate a Pringles can to hold extra rulers.
  • Decorate flavored water mix containers for storage.

Personal Hacks
  • Keep food and drink at all times. You really need water to get through the day. I bring two separate bottles and keep one in the fridge at all times. I also keep snacks because I need them but also because sometimes students need them and how can you say no?
  • Keep chapstick, tweezers, fingernail clippers, nail file, Tide To Go stick, phone charger, deodorant, hair spray, lint roller, toothpicks, and REAL KLEENEX. Okay I'm totally over prepared but these are things that students ask for and use regularly.
  • Don't set anything on your desk. Anything! No piles. At the very least, clean it before you leave.
  • I am not a morning person. Before I leave school, I have everything ready for first hour because I cannot trust myself to leave anything until morning. The computer screen is ready to go, answer keys laid out, handouts, whatever. 
  • I try not to take anything home. If it's grading papers or something that needs to be organized or put together, it's happening in the classroom. If it's something to create or that I can do digitally, that's what I'm taking home. If I create something at home I go ahead and print out a copy. Then when I get to school I can just pull my original out of my bag and copy right away.
  • Grade things immediately. I don't know why I have to say this but I grade everything the same day students finish it, put it in the grade book immediately, and return them the next day. Always. Students thank me for this.
  • I color code each class and use that color of pen to write with and color code my INB to match. Anything I can color code digitally is always that colors as well. Algebra I is blue, Geometry is green, Algebra II is purple, and Trig is pink.
  • I keep two automatic spray air fresheners (buy the batteries and can refills at Dollar Tree!) and one wax warmer in the classroom plus a spray can of air freshener in the front and back of the room. It smells good in my room 24/7.
  • I have a student area in the back where students can use stapler, hole punch, Kleenex, pencil sharpener, mirror, lint roller, lotion, hand sanitizer or Clorox wipes. This also keeps them from ever needing to touch anything on my desk. Ever.
  • Use facial scrubbers from Dollar Tree, a pack of three, as dry erase erasers.
  • Throughout the day, as you are walking around and help students multi-task by cleaning the room. As I walk I straighten up things, return things to the cart, pick up trash, dump my baby trash cans, dump the pencil sharpener, grab a Clorox wipe and wipe off empty desks, etc. When the day is over, the room is clean and you are ready to go.
I suggested this theme and then had a hard time thinking of hacks that I do...To me a hack is something that makes my life easier and that usually has something to do with organizing. but I guess I ended up covering all the bases for teacher hacks and organizing!


The Mathematicians Project

It feels like a great time in society to emphasize the value and contributions of other races and cultures to life as we know it today. Math is one small corner of it.

Using Sean Corey's google folder of resources, I made this bulletin board of mathematicians.

I introduced it by connecting it to my "What Is Math?" lesson borrowed from @saravanderwerf.

At the end of that lesson, I showed two slides of three mathematicians each. I asked them to notice patterns. They noticed things like era, clothing, age, hair, glasses, etc. Then I asked what all six had in common. Answers such as humans, alive at one time, have hair, wear clothes, etc. Yes AND they are all mathematicians. They had a lot of trouble believing Danica McKellar and John Urschel were really mathematicians.

I also attached library pockets next to each picture. I plan to make this a semester long project and repeat it with another set of mathematicians. My plan is that randomly throughout the semester, {maybe after every test?} students will research and write a random fact about one of the mathematicians above on an index card and place it in the pocket. They will also type that same fact into a google form.

The next time we do it, they have to read the index cards and make sure they are not writing a fact that is already there. By the end of the semester, I will have a speadsheet of information about each mathematician that I will then share back with the class. They will pick one and choose to create some type of summary of information: video, powerpoint, paper, poster, etc.

With the facts already typed out, it should be somewhat simple to tie everything together.

I would love your feedback on this idea!


Dollar Tree Privacy Folders

Last year I used cute manila folders as dividers by attaching two of them together. They fell down often, especially when the fan was on, and sometimes fell apart.

Over the summer I found a new idea on Pinterest using dollar tree three-fold boards.

I bought 10 boards for $10 and spray painted them silver. I thought I might need a little less teal in my life. I know, I know. What was I thinking? I don't know if it was metallic paint or the Krylon paint but the paint rubbed off every time I touched it and did NOT cover well.

So I returned to my default...teal and chevron.

After letting them dry a couple days, I cut them in half with a razor blade, using an
 L-square ruler.

I only sprayed the outside brown cardboard part and the inside was already plain white. Next, I covered the cut edge of each board with duck tape. Last year I bought chevron duck tape in different colors but this summer I couldn't find ANY. Until I found some for $.89 a roll here! The shipping price was kinda high considering I ummm bought 10 rolls but it still average out to about $2 a roll and it's super strong.

The duck tape was the hardest part! I put it with top half sticking above the top edge. Then I cut small slits where the board folds.

Then I folded the top half over the edge. I also did the sides which wasn't necessary but it sure is cute!

Then I decided it would be nice to hang something on the inside of each board. I decided to make formula sheets for each course and post them all inside. 

This is the part where I tell you I printed and laminated 60 pieces of paper which took 3 hours to trim and cut and another three hours to put sticky foam squares on the back.

I did all of this over the course of a month and a half and somewhere through that time I bought a cardboard box at a yard sale for a quarter.

Weirdly enough, it was the perfect size to hold all of my dividers. You know where I'm going with this right?

You guessed it, it got the royal treatment as well!

One last thing to complete the look.

P.S. Sorry I turned the camera halfway through these pictures.

P.P.S. It took 5 cans of spray paint for 10 boards.

P.P.P.S. It was worth it!


No Sew Intruder Curtains

This idea came from Pinterest and I added nothing of my own to this. But when I went back to read the directions, the blogger made her blog private.

Luckily I have a really good memory and found one diagram from the post still on Pinterest. The empty stars here represent paper clips and the solid stars represent binder clips. My numbers are different since my window is different.

So I am not taking credit for this but I want to give directions in case you can't find them anywhere else. All pictures below are mine.

Supplies Needed

  • 1 Dowel Rod
  • Two Command Hooks
  • Fabric
  • Ribbon
  • 4 Small Binder Clips
  • 8 Large Paper Clips 
  • Spray Paint (optional)

First measure the window you need to cover. Your fabric needs to be wider than the window. The fabric needs to be at least twice the length of your window.

I have a long skinny window which measurse 6 inches by 24 inches. Since fabric comes in a 36 inch length that means I needed two yards so I would have more than 48 inches. The width of the fabric is 45 inches so I left it folded in half for a width of 22.5 which is still WAY wider than my 6 inch window.

I bought chevron fabric from Wal-Mart for $2.50 a yard which was WAY cheaper than Hobby Lobby.

Width wise, calculate how much you need to fold. My fabric folded in half was 22.5 and my window is 6 inches. I upped that to 8 inches to make sure you couldn't see through the sides.

Do some math:

22.5 - 8 = 14.5

14.5 cut in half = 7.25

This means I need to fold the left side and right of the curtain over 7.25 inches. If this seems complicated, cut a piece of paper the width of your window and lay in the center. Then fold each side over.

Use two small binder clips on each end to clip your folds firmly.

Then use 4 paper clips on each side, evenly space, to hold the shape of your curtain.

Next you need your dowel rod. I found this pack of assorted sizes at Wal-Mart for $.98 and used the largest size. Of course I had to pain it teal.

Lay this in the middle of your fabric. Then fold the fabric in half over your dowel rod. Starting at the binder clip ends, line them evenly and roll tightly toward the dowel road.

Now you need ribbon. This is my favorite teal ribbon from Dollar Tree which also comes in many other colors and is the best deal anywhere. (It's near the flowers and vases.)

Tie the ribbon around your curtain roll and leave as much extra as you think looks nice. Double knot your bow.

Last thing is to place your two command hooks above your window. If you use the 3/16 dowel rod that I used, you can't use those little clear hooks. Check this first!

Once your command hook is hanging, the dowel rod sits nicely and your rolled up curtain is ready to go!

Pull the ribbon to unroll. Since we left our binder clips and paper clips attached, everything stays in place making it easy to roll back up when needed.


The 'Best' Right Things aka "The Day After Perfect"

There are other posts I want to write but I can't do anything until I get this one out of my brain.

I've already posted about this quote a couple of times:

"Be brave enough to be bad at something new." It's from a motivational speaker, author, and entrepreneur Jon Acuff that I subscribe to. He's coming out with a new book called "Finish" and he released the first chapter. Everything in quotation marks in this post comes from that chapter.

I was reading it and re-reading it at the same time because it goes right along with the TMC-hangover we all deal with in some measure...the fact that we can't do everything.

We hear so many good ideas that we aren't doing that we forget about all the good ideas that we are doing.

And then we go home feeling like these other teachers are awesome all the time and we are awesome never. We start to make plans feeling like we need to shove every new idea into every inch of our lesson plans. If not...we're not doing the best thing for our kids. Right?
"The first lie perfectionism tells you about goals: Quit if it isn't perfect."
Well guess what? It's not going to be perfect. It's never going to be perfect. You aren't going to be perfect. Ever. Now that we have that out of the way, there is nothing to be afraid of! The door to better teaching is forever open to you!
"We will gladly give up the whole thing when we discover some error or imperfection in our performance."
We make posters about how important mistakes are for learning and growing but then we beat ourselves up for our own mistakes. We talk ourselves out of trying something new because making a mistake might....embarrass us? Scar the children forever? Make us lose control?
"Doing something imperfectly won't kill you."
It won't kill anybody expect that spirit of perfection that tries to keep you complacent. If you aren't growing....are you dying?

I live in farm country so I guess that explains why I keep comparing teaching to farming. Do farmers plant the same plant in the same ground forever? Or do they take breaks so the land can recover? Do they try new strains? Do they try new fertilizer? Do they try new technology?

At the end of the day they are still planting seeds and reaping a harvest as new tools come and go.

But here's the thing maybe we forget...every farmer starts with different soils. Different climates. Different weather patterns. Different seed batches. Different talents. Different pests. Different equipment. Each farmer has a learning curve and has a wide variety of areas to grow in. How does he decide which area to work on? Well, there's too many variables so he better try one thing and never change it forever.

Since when has too many variables stopped a math teacher?

It's important that we recognize how we are all starting with different soils- a different foundation. My foundation is building relationship with students. I'm really good at and it comes naturally- it's hard to even explain things that I do that make it happen. So when I am reaching for new tools, I'm reaching for things that fix my pacing, my curriculum, my rigor, etc because those are the areas where I need growth.
"The problem is that perfectionism magnifies your mistakes and minimizes your progress."
Twitter and blogs can put a magnifying glass on our mistakes because we see such a plethora of new ideas. But turn that magnifying glass on to your craft and your progress. Where do you see gaps? Where do you see low performance? Now when you look at new tools, use that magnifying glass to direct your focus. Pick the tools that are going to make the biggest difference for YOUR SOIL.

And realize that everyone needs different tools for different seasons.
"The harder you try to be perfect, the less likely you'll accomplish your goals."
If your goal is to be the best teacher you can be or to make a difference....you're not going to accomplish them perfectly. Do you even know what perfect would look like it? And if you let perfect scare you, then you aren't going to accomplish them at all. 

You are doing the right things. You are scared you aren't doing the 'best' right things. But if you are honest with yourself about your progress and trying new tools to fix problems, that's always going to be the 'best' right thing. And the energizing part is that there will always be a new problem to fix and a new tool to try. You will never run out of data to analyze or classes to experiment with.

Welcome to a lifetime of growing!! You're officially a farmer.
"The day after perfect is what separates finishers from starters."
So the day after perfect fails...when you screamed at a kid, when you said something inappropriate, when a lesson flops, when the whole class fails a test, will you give up forever? Does a farmer who makes a mistake go back and rip out every seed he's planted? I don't think there's a perfect harvest but there will always be hungry people willing to eat. And there will always be curious students who are willing to learn. They won't be perfect and you won't be perfect but together you will make things grow.
"The opposite of perfectionism is not failure- it's finished."


Year 9

My room just keeps getting better and better. I really can't imagine anything I would change but I've thought that every year before this too.

There's just something about it right now that I feel like really reflects me. Or maybe I'm just more me when I'm in here.

This quote says Be brave with your life. 

I will forever love my Milligram bulletin board. It is my actual school account.

Having a little light and air freshener is really important to me.

That Poppins desk set is SO worth it.

Using powder drink holders as pen caddy's-covered the bottom with duck tape and will hand these out when needed since they were all stolen last year.

 Filing cabinet makeover with spray paint and contact paper.

 My clearance TJ Maxx clock and Oriental trading pennant banner.

My $.25 yard sale box that hold my 18 privacy folders {blog post to come}.

Replace green chevron border with gray from Hobby Lobby {$3.99 or $2.39 with coupon}

Replaced blue and green paper lanterns with turquoise chevron paper lanterns.

Chevron folders for each period in my hanging file holder for absent students.

Baby trash cans from Dollar Tree and custom laminated drawer labels.

All ten drawers!

The top of these carts have holes in them and students love to put tape over the holes and then stab it which makes it impossible to take the tape off. This year I laminated two 8.5x11 scrapbook papers and hot glued the corners down. 

...for individual pencil holders made of smoothie straws and duck tape.

My no-sew chevron intruder curtain made with paperclips and binder clips that unrolls with a pull of a ribbon...teal ribbon of course.

And one of my new favorite quotes:

"Be brave enough to be bad at something new."
-Jon Acuff

I didn't realize how being brave kept showing up as a theme in my classroom until people at TMC and on Twitter have mentioned it. 

I don't think it is bravery when you have no other choice.