Bulletin boards are done!

My Blaugust posting wasn’t a total fail but I did not blog as often and I would have liked. A couple of things got in the way (I’m looking at you TESOL Praxis) and I decided to take some time off from thinking about school before it was crunch time.

This week I’ve made it into my classroom everyday to slowly finish all of the projects that I started. My bulletin boards are done!

1. Word Wall

Word Wall

The banner came from the Target Dollar Spot. It’s dry erase graph paper!

2. Sentence Starters

Sentence Starters

I posted about these posters before I hung them here. The title was inspired from someone else’s classroom but I can’t find it to give credit. I loved the idea of inviting students to take part in the conversation. You can also see my hall pass binder and late to class log here. This table is right next to the door so it minimizes disruptions to the whole class when students are coming/going.

3. Wall of Champions


Since taking this picture I’ve added another banner from the Dollar Spot. It perfectly matched my theme with this board (the teal and light bulbs) and says “The future is bright”.

4. Super boring schedule board that I didn’t take a picture of. I use a pocket chart and sentence strips to change up the day of the week, period, and bell times as needed.

With two days left before school officially starts I’m still working on…

  1. Setting up a structure for passing out/ collecting papers. I’ve yet to find a system that doesn’t involve a massive pile up of papers that only get dealt with once a marking period. Right now I’m learning towards group folders as posted by Sam Shah.
  2. Planning for a meaningful first week of activities that support my goals for this year.




Planning to fail?


#MTBoSBlaugsust: Day 2

The biggest reason I joined the 9th grade team at my school was to work closely with the other 9th grade math teacher. Being able to co-plan with another teacher is incredible. We are able to bounce ideas back and forth, share the burden of planning and creating resources and compare student progress to change our practice and improve our teaching.

Today we sat down to plan out the first few weeks of school together. We share both Algebra 1 and Honors Geometry as preps so those are the courses we focused on. Both courses had a major overhaul in curriculum this year (Which I hope to blog about at some point during Blaugust. I’ve been having a lot of feelings about teachers as curriculum writers.) so we needed to revise our pacing.

The problem we have run into with Algebra 1 is that we cannot make our way through the entire course in one year. When we mapped out our first unit it took twice as long as our district planning documents said it should. We refocused and tried to see where we could cut time and found nothing. Except maybe not teaching domain and range from graphs. As teachers we are given little autonomy in how we plan our courses and I understand the district’s point of view on this. There are three high schools in the district and they need to ensure that students are getting the same education no matter which school they attend. We are also a high poverty and typically low performing district so it is important to them that there are no reasons to disparage any one school in particular and try to maintain some consistency. But the reality is that our Algebra 1 students never make it to quadratics and barely make it to polynomials before the end of the year. And they definitely don’t make it there before the PARCC test.

But this is what we are stuck with – a curriculum that is seemingly impossible to teach in the time allotted. There must be something we are missing here. It cannot be impossible to teach this course in one year. What I am looking for are ideas from other Algebra 1 teachers.

  • How do you map out your course?
  • Where have you found topics that can be glossed over and which ones need to be taught in depth?
  • What time saving tricks do you have that make the most of your class time?
  • Or really anything that could be helpful.

Here are the learning targets that I created from our unit plans. Bold lines represent where I think a quiz would fit. I don’t think the targets are that outrageous in number or depth but maybe I’m wrong? I would be beyond grateful for any insight or guidance.


Small change – big impact: Pencils


#MTBoSBlaugust: Day 1

One small thing that I did last year revolutionized how I deal with one of my biggest classroom pet peeves: students not having pencils.

I started the year with no system. I had a drawer full of pencils on my student supply table that needed to be refilled almost every period. It was out. of. control. I have never gone through so many pencils. The only pro to this system was that students never had to ask me for a pencil and interrupt class time.

My coteacher tried to brand the pencils. Each one got a tape flag that said “I ❤ math” on one side and “Ms. Braga” on the other side. This was a flop. Students were really into the pencil flags. They liked to take them. They also like unpeeling the tape and sticking in on desks.

I gave up on the pencil drawer and started just giving pencils out to students that needed them. This was also ridiculous. It took too much time for me to walk back to my desk where pencils were stored, walk back to the front board and then sharpen the pencils. I’m not sure what I was thinking when I decided this was how my classroom would run. I was interrupted while teaching so frequently that it was laughable.

Now the revolutionary idea: I keep a cup full of pencils on my teaching station at the front board. The cup usually has 10 or so pencils in it. So that eliminated one hurdle – I no longer needed to walk back to my desk to retrieve pencils. But the really smart idea was creating a pencil sign out box on the white board. My projector does not project to my entire whiteboard. There’s probably 8″ of space on the left and right hand sides. Those spaces are completely unused on a normal day. So in frustration one day I wrote down the name of every student that borrowed a pencil in this space on the board. At the end of class every single student returned their pencils. It was great. To completely remove myself from the pencil situation I had student start signing out their own pencils. So simple. So easy. So many returned pencils.

During a typical class this system works seamlessly.

  1. Student realizes they need a pencil.
  2. Student gets up to take a pencil out of the cup on my teaching station.
  3. Student picks up a white board marker and writes their name in the pencil sign out box.
  4. Student returns pencil at the end of class and erases name from board.

Notice how no where in that system does the teacher have to do anything. Not a single thing! I don’t even deal with refilling the cup or sharpening the pencils. That’s a task I leave to students that have DT afterschool or just stop by before school to say hi or have a few minutes left at the end of a test. I no longer have to touch a single pencil in my classroom unless I’m using it. It was the best idea I had all year.