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

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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.

 

 

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Planning to fail?

MTBOSBlaugust2016

#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

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#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.

Intentional Talk Sentence Starters

This year I’m hoping to talk less. I know my students will need supports to start contributing to our math discussions and I think having these sentence starters will help. I’m expecting that I’ll have to model their use and I think we might do some role playing so that students can get used to saying them without any extra pressure.

I reused some of my previous sentence starters that I never actually posted in my classroom and added in suggestions from Intentional Talk: How to Structure and Lead Mathematical Discussions. They’ll be hung above the whiteboard so that everyone can see them. I might make another set to hang on on side of the classroom as well.

Screenshot 2016-07-29 at 2.11.11 PM

Link to the google slides can be found here! These should print just fine if you print 1 slide per page.

 

Coming back…

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I started blogging my second year of teaching and promptly gave it up. There were some changes in personal life and the intense realization that I had no idea what I was doing teaching intervention classes. The intervention classes were much more successful than I could have hoped. I eventually settled into a great routine and all of my students made growth.

Last year was year 3 and it was by far the hardest year I’ve had yet. I transitioned to teaching 9th grade team: Algebra 1 and Honors Geometry. I still had one block of intervention but that ran smoothly after having a full course load the year before to figure out how it should work. Halfway through the year my schedule changed. One of my Algebra 1 classes was collapsed, my intervention class was collapsed and I got two new classes: ELL Algebra 1 and “Algebra Concepts”. Starting over with two new courses for semester two was harder than I thought it would be. On top of all that I had a rough time with my evaluation (I have never felt so devalued as an educator before) had to appeal to the union and (very thankfully) my evaluator changed before the process was over.

Overall the year just seemed off. I never found the joy that I usually get from teaching and left most days too exhausted to think. My classroom did not have the feeling that I wanted it to. I somehow never really got to know my students and didn’t let them get to know me.

This year I’m going back to the things I know work for me and my teaching style and ignoring some of the advice that just doesn’t work for me. I loved working on the 9th grade team and collaborating with other disciplines and sharing info about students. But. The other women on my team had very different teaching styles than I do and much more experience and very well run classrooms. I tried to emulate how they ran their classes and it was a disaster. At the end of the year I decided to go back to what works for me.

This year I am…

  1. Putting my students back in groups. It worked for my struggling intervention students I can make it work for freshmen.
  2. Letting go of the idea that I can’t smile until Christmas. I am much happier when I can be myself in my classroom. I am sarcastic. I like to make jokes. I like to relate to my students when they bring up things that are off topic.
  3. Making my love of math front and center. In previous years I got excited about sharing topics with students. They could feel my enthusiasm and it spread. Last year I made the curriculum a slow painful funeral march. I wasn’t enthusiastic about any of it and I could feel the difference in my students.
  4. Decorating! I miss having posters on the walls and pops of color everywhere. My theme is rainbow. It’s always rainbow, I can’t help myself. When I rearranged the desks into groups I also relocated my teacher desk. I am hoping to make it more organized this year so that I can actually use it during my planning blocks instead of it becoming a paper landfill. I think if I add some pictures and make it look nice I’ll be less tempted to pile papers on top of it.
  5. Actively working to improve my practice. I gave up last year. I knew that what I was doing wasn’t working for me or my students and I just kept doing the same things and thinking it would be different. So far I am reading Intentional Talk, Mathematical Mindsets, twitter and other blogs.

Day 1: Everyone survived (the first day with students)

photo (6)

3 awesome things

 

 

  • I used the name tag exit slips that I linked to in my first week planning.They put their names on the front and on the back I had them write three numbers about them. This ended up being much more fun than I thought, the students challenged me to guess what their numbers meant during first block and I loved the idea so much I did it every block. I was mildly concerned about the time it would take to respond to all of the students’ noticings and wonderings but it flew by. The majority of my classes this year are freshmen so there was a lot of wondering about the high school itself (Will we get to use the pool? Do we go on field trips?) but also some good questions about the intervention class. 
  • I love love love meeting new students. It feels almost like a blind date. I’ve heard stories about some of them, been warned about some and I’m sure they asked about me before we met. There’s a lot of anticipation during that first class and I really want it to set the tone for the rest of the year.
  • The Chromebooks have arrived! There was some question about whether or not they would be returning this week after being lent to the middle school for the summer, and about what condition they would be in when they came back, but they are almost all there and mostly in good shape. It’s just one less thing that I am not in control of. I know they’re in my room and ready to go.

 

2 things that shouldn’t have surprised me

  • Scheduling mishaps. During one block today my department head and I were both scheduled to teach in my room. Because it was the first day we had an abbreviated schedule in the morning so for 30 minutes I had more students than desks as he went to take care of it. It definitely cramped my productivity in that block but I think we’ll be able to make up for it tomorrow.
  • My students were not ready for the Noah’s Ark problem that everyone and their brother says students get really into and excited about. Even though I hadn’t met my students yet I waffled about doing it today and didn’t even print or copy it until right before class. My gut instincts were right, on the first day, with struggling students, this was not the right fit. We’re going to ease into things a little bit more slowly and try some patterns with manipulatives. 

 

1 thing I’m really looking forward to

  • Developing routines and rapport with my students. I can’t wait to get over this first bit so that everything and everyone starts to feel settled. 

Classroom Posters

Last year my walls were mostly empty. I started with a couple of MC Escher prints, a number line and the operation posters from Kuta. It was super boring in there. This year I was inspired by my lack of classroom management skills to post some definite class room rules and group work norms. I loved the ones posted at mathequalslove: group norms and classroom rules. I changed them up a bit to work for my classroom but almost all of them came straight from those posts.

classroom rulesDownload here: Classroom rules

grou norms

 

Download here: group norms

I also made a set of posters about the properties that I think students should gain fluency with while they’re hanging out in intervention. Most of my students know these properties when dealing with numbers but don’t know their names and can’t deal when you add variables.

properties

 

Download here: Properties

This last set came from a SIOP training for ELL instruction. The sentence starters support oral language development for ELL students but I think they’ll be majorly useful for all of my students. They suggested making anchor charts to post but when presented with the opportunity to make posters…I can’t help myself. 

sentence starters

 

Download here: Sentence Starters