Game Changer: My Top 5 Questions

It's way more fun to share resources but these questions have made more of a difference in student growth than any resource yet.
  1. What do you notice?
  2. How do we start?
  3. How is this question different from the previous one?
  4. What should we do next?
  5. What is the question asking us to find?
This is similar to the order I would actually use them in a lesson. They seem extra effective in Geometry, probably because there are so many diagrams.

I think it's really important that #1 is asked before #2. If you ask how to start first, you risk alienating students who think they are already supposed to know this new thing that you are teaching them.

Asking #1 first gives everyone a chance to participate by noticing, even if they don't participate verbally. Listing things we notice gives a foundation to build from. Students can then suggest a first step based on what they notice. There's less fear in answering when you know it's connected to what you and your classmates just pointed out.

When asking #3 just go ahead and toss your preconceived answers out because THEY WILL ALWAYS SURPRISE YOU. Surprises vary from them answering "they all have numbers" to something YOU didn't even notice yourself. Also be prepared to offer ample wait time until they answer what you need to go on with the lesson. I like to think that doing WODB once a week has helped students to be more observant in noticing subtle changes in questions/problems.

I ask #4 constantly even when I'm sure everyone in the class knows what to do next and especially when I'm sure no one in the class knows what to do next. When steps are interchangeable, I always like to explain my method and why I choose to do it this way. This has helped my own growth because I constantly question my own methods and their efficiency. Sometimes students point out why another way is better or they like it better and I love to emphasize that different ways are good and student can choose. I like to say "do whatever makes sense to your brain." Because I also like to emphasize that each brain is different and you know it best. All brains matter!

And #5 by far has made the biggest difference in Geometry. Almost every skill starts by asking students to solve for x and then progresses to segment lengths or angles or something that requires plugging in. These type of problems used to make me so mad because I felt like it was all I could do to teach them how to solve for x and then the problems go and get harder. Once I started pointing this out, the amount of students who forgot to plug in went down to one or two. It's also a great strategy for multi-step problems. I always focus so much on how to get them started that I used to lose sight of how to finish.

This post has been on my mind for a couple days and I felt like maybe I had already written it. I found a good list here but none of my top 5 were on it so consider this my two-for-one special.



How To...Self and Peer Assessment

In my own personal effort to #ExpandMTBoS, I'm starting a new category of blog posts called 'How To' so I can share the strategies behind the resource. I hope new and veteran teachers alike can find something useful. Click on the tag to the right for more posts!

Thanks to mathbythemountain for suggesting this post; after my last post, she asked me to explain each activity.

So here goes! Let me first say....I haven't done any of these and some of them I just learned about this summer.

  • Brain dump: link here; although it's pretty self-explanatory. I'm thinking of doing this for the first five minutes of study guide day
  • Circle Graph Reflection: blogged about here with an INB download
  • End of unit summary INB sheet: blogged about here with an INB download
  • Reflection question on quiz/test: inspired by Pam Wilson and mentioned in my "Make it Stick" post, I also read about this in Mathematical Mindsets. Seems really easy to implement and useful for both students and me, and apparently students can be very accurate at it.
  • Rubric: this is pretty generic and I don't have any examples to share but it could be used for any assessment or project


I'm obviously weak in both of these areas. Do you have ideas to add to this?


Reflecting on my Awesomeness

I’ve been getting more and more irritated with little things in the last couple weeks. I’ve gotten out of the habit of blogging my #onegoodthing. On New Years Day, I realized I really didn’t set any goals or  resolutions in 2017. I decided I was riding the high from a lot of personal success in 2016 and maintaining those successes.

So today seems like the perfect time to reflect on all the new things I’ve learned and tried and some subtle goals I achieved without explicitly stating them.

I’ve used Google Classroom:
  • On a daily basis
  • For bell ringers 
  • For weekly wrap ups
  • For binder checks
  • For semester reflections
  • For Homecoming surveys
  • For links to Desmos 
  • For assignments
  • For my mathematician project 
  • For Student Council
  • To post answer keys
  • Collaborative google slidesp

Outside of Google Classroom which was a big priority for me this year, I’ve also:
  • Regularly posted classroom photos for #teach180
  • Shared those photos on Facebook with parents/community
  • Made digital answer keys for INB pages so I no longer have to copy them myself
  • Returned quizzes/tests with problems left blank to students to attempt with a little prompting
  • Redid part of a test with the whole class when many bombed it
  • Used Desmos more than once in more than one class
  • Tried quizlet for the first time
  • Tried whiteboarding as a whole class activity
  • Continued my yearly goal of using less handouts than the previous year in every prep
  • Made my first anchor chart 
  • Used Factoring Friday’s 9-12 to fix gaps in Algebra II
  • Created a mathematician project based on diversity and student research 
  • In my syllabus I wrote that all quizzes were 20 points or less and that has unconsciously guided  me throughout the year
  • Used flippity.net to do VRG every two weeks
  • Sent in a proposal to present at TMC
  • Regularly been active on Twitter 
  • Made it farther through my pacing guide in every prep
  • Made a digital INB table of contents for each course for students to copy and that I can reuse 

Also I’ve noticed that each year I tackle a crappy lesson from the previous year and dissect it into tiny  pieces; usually coming up with an activity for each perceived stumbling block. It might take a whole week for one lesson but by golly everyone’s going to understand it! I’m proud of this and it is a continued goal I will pursue for the rest of my career.

Goals I want to think about this summer/implement next year:
  • Introduce debate through Google Classroom posts
  • Make (print, laminate, bind) a dry erase book from all of the dry erase templates I currently use  in a page protector (color coordinated by course)
  • Use my Remind app to send out Happy Birthday messages
  • Use the About tab on Google Classroom to post my “pinned” links and answer keys
  • Use the Google Classroom calendar to overview the week for students 
  • Having a quarterly retake day where every student has to retake at least one quiz to promote regular retakes throughout the year
  • Learn about flip grid 
  • Try/use/make interactive Google Slides

And as always:

  • Make things pretty
  • Make pretty things
  • Ask better questions
  • Build relationships 
  • Use my confidence to build others’
  • Remember how awesome I am! I’m good at this job! I love it! I’m always improving! I have a lot to offer! I have a lot to learn AND a lot to teach!