Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Along with trying to figure out how to do homework, incorporating INBs and figuring out foldables, I've also been considering the flipped classroom this summer.

There are three different ways I've been approaching this:

1.  Our tech guru at school, Cary Harrod, approached me this spring asking if I would take an ecourse from PLP about flipping the classroom, lead by Jackie Gerstein. I agreed (especially since school would pay for it!) and signed up for the 5-week course. It was supposed to start at the beginning of June and run through the middle of July but then was pushed to mid July to mid August. I've struggled with the course a bit just because it's been so philosophical and at this point of the summer I'm thinking application. Jackie's focus was to "set the framework and ideas" for the five weeks I've enrolled and then will do more of the lesson developing during what is the second (optional) 5-week course. I'm a math teacher. I need concrete.

I'm not saying that I disagree with what Jackie's doing. She spent a week discussing the idea of "experiential" learning and loves the hands-on, problem solving approach. It's not just Khan Academy, people! (Jackie's amazing at finding and sharing links, too!)

2. Cary also emailed me this summer asking if I would check out the Sophia Flipped Classroom course.  I have to admit that I started it (got 41 points out of 60 possible) but then got distracted. It's more of an "on your own time" thing... it's populated with videos to watch, articles to read, links to follow, then a quiz for each section. It's interesting and nice to be able to do at my own pace.

I hadn't been to Sophia before... there are a ton of videos there that you can use if you plan on flipping a class! Or even if you don't; I would like to use them as back-ups for kids who have been absent or need extra help.

3.  I also had a (short) chance to hear Troy Stein speak at TMC12. He works for TechSmith, the company behind Jing,  Camtasia, and Snagit. These are some of the notes I wrote down during Troy's talk:

·         Will students watch the videos? Do you watch YouTube videos at home?
·         Aaron Sams, John Bergman – started flipped classroom in Colorado (chem)

Using Snagit to create videos:
·         Screen capture
·         Open in ppt, write on it…
·         Start recording middle of class to post for work later (Quiet on the set)
·         Keep it simple – start with one unit
·         Mathtrain.tv – middle school videos made by students
·         Use webcam video – dragged onto screen to see talking and work at same time
·         Students prefer to see someone they know “If it’s someone I know, it’s cool. If it’s not, it’s just a video.”
·         What if students don’t watch video?
1.      Play video during warm up/attendance time. 
2.   Students call home to tell parents they didn’t do it.
3.    Move on… put students who didn’t do the work in a group.
4.      Embed bonus snippets in video to reward those who are watching.
5.      Find the mistake. (Reward for first one found.)

I'm not at the point where I'm ready to flip a classroom. I can see using the idea of having a student watch a video/do the basic learning outside of class so you can apply it in class the next day. Especially in something like precalc when a lot of the first quarter is review for so many students (or should be!) and they just need a quick review.  I started making some screencasts last spring for classes just so I could talk through a lesson that several people had missed or a tough homework problem... the kids loved it and I'm sure I'll keep it up this year. But to do that on a regular basis instead of "lecturing" (hate that term) in class?  I'm not ready for that.

Monday, July 30, 2012

#Made4Math Monday (an update)

I stopped by school today just to drop some stuff off and ended up staying for a couple hours trying to fix my blackboard (which I posted pics of yesterday and just didn't like).

I'm pretty pleased with how they turned out now!

I started by taking down all of the wrapping paper that I'd put up. I found some forgotten border in my closet (some of which is pretty cute) and sectioned off a part of the chalkboard to use as a place to write assignments. We'd stopped at a nearby KMart where I found the colored tape. Now I'll just need to find my chalk holder - I hate the feeling of chalk on my hands!

Then I put up the yellow paper (the type from the big roll in the paper room).  I surrounded it by a cute red border with yellow pencils that I'd found at Walmart on one of my shopping trips ($.88).

I finished up with an orange section, again surrounded by a border I'd gotten at Walmart for $.88.

The natives (aka my 5- and 8-year old) were getting restless, so I had to leave the last section of board to finish up next time I go.  But I'm much happier with how it looks now, and I can even use the boards with their magnetic capabilities (see the clips attached?).

Many thanks to all of you who commented on my last post with ideas!  :)

#Made4Math July 30

(Had to switch from putting the week number because I've totally lost track!)

I have a couple little things this week to show off (not that I'm trying to make up for missing last week or anything!).

First, I bought some modge podge (which spell check doesn't like at all!) and made some magazine-wrapped feather-topped pencils. In the meanwhile, my daughter took care of a small can of Pringles, so here are my fancy pencils in their new little home!

I'm still trying to figure out what to do with the big black chalkboard that I never write on in my classroom. @druinok suggested I either cover it with a fun fabric or wrapping paper to help liven it up. The kids and I went in to school a couple of weeks ago and I did the wrapping paper thing, but I'm not sure I'll keep it.

I definitely need to re-do the middle section; that roll was a little too short! I'm either going to leave it blank but separate into three sections using border or put up some plain paper separated by border. Today I made some letters out of my fun scrapbook paper for each class.

I made big (3"- 4") letters in word using the Ice Age font, cut them out, traced them, and then cut those out. It took me a little longer than I thought it would despite - or because of - my two helpers, one of whom is still figuring out the cutting straight lines thing and really can't do curves. But she wanted to help!

I may run up to school today with the kids to get my letters up and figure out what to put them on (plain paper or no paper at all).  I also need to stop at the DMV and get a new driver's license... mine disappeared somewhere in St. Louis last weekend!   Oops.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Interactive Notebooks

The session I was looking forward to the most at #TMC12 was Megan Hayes-Golding's talk on Interactive Notebooks (INB).  (Here's her information on it from her blog.)  I'm hoping to use them in my Algebra 1 classes (one honors, one general) as a way of keeping the kids organized and avoid the shove-the-papers-in-the-backpack-never-to-be-seen-again disease.

I've been sitting tonight (while the Olympic opening ceremonies are on... I have trouble focusing on one thing at a time. Thanks, Twitter!) trying to do some planning for my INBs.

First, I typed up the notes I'd taken at Megan's session (which was great, btw!).

  • Store in Ziploc bag with colored pencils (4), mailing label on edge (w/name), tape/glue, highlighter
  • Decorate the cover (bring in magazines) and cover w/clear packing tape
  • Table of contents – 1st 4 pages
  • Inside cover: Class syllabus/rules?
  • LHP = output (Left-hand-page)

·         Think/process/put in own words
·         Warm ups
·         ALWAYS USE COLOR (helps learn/remember)
·         Give copy of IN: Left Side WS
·         Re-solve problem(s) on whiteboard that was hard for them
·         “Get them handling their notes”
  • Be on same page at all time (may need to have 2 page 17s) = don’t pre-number!
  • Give stamp/star for complete HW & entry in TOC
  • Attach HW in NB? (leave in spiral); attach reviews in INB after completion
  • Closing activity: have students ask questions
  • Create foldable with their questions
  • Keep model copy for class
  • Keep copies of handouts available (layered folders?)
  • Collect/check on test day = record hw grades then
My  next task was to check out the formatting for any word doc that I'm going to give them for their INBs.  I've seen a lot of talk about printing two-to-a-page, but for my fill-in notes I want to give them as much room as possible.  Since I want to tape/glue an 8.5 x 11 inch piece of paper into a 9.75 x 7.5 inch composition notebook, I decided to set up margins of 0.75 inches on both top and bottom, 0.5 inches on the left, and 1.5 inches on the right. (I want to leave some extra space to tape the paper into the book.) I may need to play with these numbers a little more, but I'm hoping this will work out ok.

Then I started thinking about what to put where.  The plan is to give them a copy of my rules/syllabus to put on the inside front cover before the Table of Contents starts. This is one paper that the kids usually lose and I'd like them to have access to it for the whole year.

As for what's going in the actual notebook itself, I'm going to give my typical fill-in notes sheets (with adjusted margins, of course) but I rarely am able to fit it on just one side of a paper. Here are my two options:
        1.  Take up two pages in the INB for the notes. 
                 Pros: I could use the first LHP for the warm-up and the second to tape in the exit slip.
                 Cons: We'd go through the composition book that much quicker.               

       2. Layer the note pages one on top of another.
                 Pros: Uses less paper in the composition book. Notes stay together on one page.
                 Cons: It could get all flappy. Not as much room for warm up/exit slip, but those could be layered, too.  (bulky?)

So that's something I'll need to decide.

As for my exit slips (which will be new for me this year!), I think I have a nice little plan coming together. On the fill-in notes I've used in class already I always include an "On Your Own" section that I make the kids do before I give them their assignment. These would be perfect as exit slips! I already have an exit slip form made up (I posted about it here). I could pass it out after notes, have the kids put them in the red/yellow/green bins (thanks to @druinok for the yellow bin!!) and then return them the next day to be taped into their INB. That should work out perfectly.

I definitely want to get into foldables this year, too. But that's another post. 


After the huge success of #Made4Math Monday (which I neglected to do this week... I was in TMC12 recovery mode!) a suggestion was made by @MissCalcul8 that we continue the "My Favorite..." sessions from TMC12 on our blogs every Friday.

These were just short little 5-minute sessions in which people presented their favorite whatever. Website, practice, game, etc.

One thing that I like to do at the beginning of the school year is collect everyone's information:  Name, email address, parents' names, etc.  Dan Meyer put together a "Who I Am" sheet that I used for a few years (or something like it) but then I found that I didn't have kids' information when I needed it - they were all filed in a binder in my room never to be seen again.

And then I decided to use something that has changed my life forever.  Google Forms.

Instead of typing up a sheet for the kids to fill out (and then copying it a bazillion times), I created a google form to collect the information for me.  The best part of this is that I always have access to it, as all of their information is entered into a spreadsheet. I can alphabetize, sort into classes, copy email addresses and do a group email, and all sorts of fun stuff that wasn't possible unless I manually typed all of their information into my computer (yuck).

This is the gform that I did that first year. My plan for this year is to put together a multi-page one that will ask them different questions whether they are in Precalc or Algebra 1.  I typically embed the form into our class blog, but this year we're all working with a product called Schoology which is more of a moodle-type thing (that looks like facebook).

Oh, and one fun thing that I did with the results of the "Math is. . ." question on the form is make a wordle.  The results were interesting!

It would be fun to do one at the beginning of the year and then again at the end to see if the kids still thought the same thing!

(On that note, Tagxedo is a word-cloud generator, too, which gives you a little more freedom. But I digress.)

I had a couple of queries about how/when I make the kids enter their information. Last year in my Precalc classes I just told the kids to do it by a certain day (on their own time). I think I had all but 2 (out of 94 students) do it.  In my Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 classes I reserved our tablet cart and gave the kids some time in class to get it done.  I'll probably do the same thing again this year, but because we're starting a BYOD program the compliance should be higher in class.  Oh, and the kids can fill out the survey on their phones, too, which we all know they have (even if they're not supposed to).

And now I should go work on next week's #Made4Math. :)

Monday, July 23, 2012

#TMC12: For us by us

I'm not even sure where to start. I just spent five days with almost 40 people I'd never seen before representing 19 states and 3 countries. I wasn't sure what to expect and was nervous about talking to people that I didn't "know". I don't meet people well; I tend to be more of a watcher when I'm not comfortable and there just wasn't time to for that. But this was a stage of knowing people that doesn't happen much. My goal was to try and just be myself from the get-go.

The result?

An AMAZING almost-week with some AWESOME people.

There were people there that I tweet with often and some I didn't know existed. After a little bit of awkwardness (how exactly do you start talking to people you "know" but don't really know?) everyone gelled very quickly.

Some observations that I was able to make quickly:
1. Julie is really as peppy as she seems on twitter. I totally understand her using ALL CAPS and lots of !!!!
2. Sam's taller than I imagined. But he's also nicer, funnier, and not in the least bit condescending when explaining to me what he was doing to solve problems that I couldn't figure out. And he loves nachos.
3. Hedge is what-you-see-is-what-you-get, just like on twitter. She's generous, funny, quick-witted, and has some crazy obsession with torturing Seiler. But we all knew that.
4. Lisa is the ultimate organizer. She had folders labeled with maps for drivers, she had us scheduled to the minute, and she thought of stuff that the rest of us never would've.
5. Sarah's very passionate about what they're doing in her school and it sounds amazing. She's also funny, loves to sing, shares my sweet tooth, and is disturbed by the sound of the air conditioner switching on in the middle of the night.
6. Shelli's generous, sweet, and I wish she lived a lot closer so I could pick her brain on stuff! Guess I'll just have to stick to that on twitter. :)

These are just a few of the amazing people that I finally met this past week (excluding Lisa and Sarah, who I've met before). But I'd be remiss in not mentioning Megan (who I really wished I'd talked to more... She always comes up with the funniest, most perfect comments!), Simmons (I could watch and talk to him for hours AS LONG AS HE HAS HIS CLOTHES ON), Rachel (the cutest ukulele player I've ever seen), Colin (the best Canadian dj when the connection works!), Marsha (who is going to really start tweeting more, right?!), and Jami (who I'm so glad decided to make the last-minute jaunt to Cincy and ride along with us!). But what about Anthony, Glenn, Bowman, Sean, Kate, Pam, Jamie, Max, James, Alex, David, Troy, Elizabeth, Karim, and Mike? (In no certain order! :) )

I could go on and on. And I still haven't mentioned Pinterest (oops), porn dogs, full moons, marshmallow guns, German liters, piggy-back rides, waves, stripper dances, and Chinese files drills...

I've got a bunch of notes on actual sessions that I need to sort through and blog about just to make sure I remember. But for now I've got unpacking and laundry to do and real-life to get back to.

To end this on a fun note, we were lucky enough to hear an original song during our closing session performed by Sean, Rachel, and Bowman. It may be a little tough to understand (I'll post the lyrics when I find them) but you should be able to see the sense of community that was built in this short time that we're all going to miss.

The lyrics have been posted!

 I sat alone in my class, Hoping my students would pass, 
Prepping was kicking my ass 
But help was on the way
 I started searching the net, 
To find a way to connect 
Found teachers I’d never met and I was on my way 
Dan’s blog was poppin',
 G-Reader, feed not stoppin' 
Each day, I would drop-in 
Guess it’s time for hop in! 

Hey, I just found you, 
And this is crazy, 
But here's my ID, 
So tweet me, maybe?
 It's hard to reach out,
 Please don’t flame me,
 But here's my ID,
 So tweet me, maybe? x2

Oh holy crap can it be, 
Nowak responded to me, 
Blogging math celebrity, 
She’s twitter royalty 
I beg, and borrow and steal
 No reinventing the wheel, 
What are these urges I feel? 
Nerdy math sex appeal
 Hal-lo-ween was awesome 
Dull worksheets,
 I could toss ‘em 
My i-deas could blossom
 Now it’s time for Math Camp, baby!

Hey, I just met you, all in person. 
Twitter Math Camp, 
this was the first one
 It's hard to teach right,
 in i-so-laaaaaation, 
So here’s some PD,
 just like va-ca-tion

Before I came onto your sites, 
I must’ve taught so bad,
 I must’ve taught so bad,
 I must’ve taught so so bad 
Before we came onto your sites
 we must’ve taught so bad 
and you should know that
 It was so, so sad
 I loved free pizza, and the brew-ry. 
You know my ID, 
So tweet me, maybe? 
Ci-ty Muse-um, or the Card’s game, 
So tweet me sometime,
 I won’t be too lame 
So, thank you Shelli, 
thank you Li-sa. 
Don’t want to go home - so glad to meet ya

Now that it’s coming to an end
we’ll miss you so bad
we’ll miss you so bad
I’ll miss you so, so bad
Before you came into our lives
I must’ve taught so bad
And you should know that.
So tweet me, maybe?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


After months of waiting, it's finally (almost) here. Our first Twitter Math Camp. It all came about several months ago when I was tweeting with some friends (@druinok and @lmhenry9) about getting together this summer. After throwing some ideas around, TMC was born.

I want to say that this never would have been put together except for the amazing organizational skills of one Mrs. Lisa Henry.  If it had been up to me we all would've met at some random place and stared at each other for 3 days.  :)

It's going to be so cool that EdWeek wrote an article about it.

So at this time tomorrow I'll be very very close (hopefully) to arriving in St. Louis and finally "meeting" some friends that I've talked to/tweeted for years.

Yay us!

(PS - If you want to follow along, try #TMC12. I'm sure we'll be tweeting!)

Monday, July 16, 2012

It's #Made4Math Monday!

Around 10:00 on Sunday night I started thinking about what I could do for this week's #Made4Math Monday. I know, I know - what's the hurry?

I did some searching on Pinterest, which led me to a blog where they showed making magazine holders out of cereal boxes. We certainly have plenty of cereal boxes around here (although they all have cereal in them!) and I have a large stack of composition notebooks on my dining room table that will need a home in my classroom. That sealed the deal for me.

I had to empty one of the kids' cereal boxes (No, I did not eat it - this stuff is nasty! Just put the bag in the cupboard where it will either go stale or get eaten by one of our dogs.)

Then I did a little measuring. The site I'd seen said to keep the box at least 5" high in the front and out at least 3" at the top.  I cut some of the height from the box because the composition notebooks are kinda small.

I ended up using some scrapbook paper that I'd bought this summer for projects such as this! I picked out a few pages that have the same color but different pattern so all of my boxes will color coordinate. (I'll need to empty some more cereal boxes for that! But I have time.)

To attach the scrapbook paper on the box, I used a little glue gun that I have. It looks like there's something called mod podge which would work well, too. I sealed the edges with some clear tape.  I'm so not a crafter, but I think this turned out pretty cute!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Brain dump

I'm still trying to think through how I want to change things up this year - I need someone to step up and give me the perfect solutions so I can stop torturing myself!!!

First, I'd like to use warm ups and exit slips (cool downs?) in class. I've done warm ups a bit in the past but never exit slips, and I honestly don't know how to implement them without having to assign a grade to each effort. I'm thinking that if I give a weekly participation grade for the problems then I can just give feedback on the problems themselves. I bought red, green, and yellow bins (actually, @druinok got me the yellow bin because my Target didn't have them!) that I would like to use as turn-in bins. That way I could get a quick glimpse of how the kids are feeling about the problems when they turn them in. (Green = good, yellow = iffy, red = not good) I like Sam Shah's post here  where he talks about using exit slips (and make sure to read the very helpful comments, too!). I couldn't remember where I'd first seem this idea until Pam Wilson commented to something on twitter.  It was from her description of her classroom where she described using R, Y, G for exit slips.  We're going to go through a lot of the Exeter problems next week, which could lend themselves to some great warm-ups.

**I wrote this post as there was a discussion happening on twitter.  Here are some of the highlights:
(After I'd posted the above picture because people were asking about the bins)
@aanthonya@Fouss @jreulbach and what exactly do you use those bins for?

me  I'm going to use them as turn-in bins for warm ups. Red = no clue; yellow = need a little help; green = good to go

@mgolding@Fouss That's a great way to get students owning their learning. I love it!@aanthonya @jreulbach

me   got the idea here , thought I'd seen it for exit slips but can't find it now.

@jreulbach@Fouss @aanthonya that's cool. Will they be embarrased to put it in red? What will u do after a student goes red? Do u grade warmups?

me:     I don't know if it'll work or not; still working through how I'd do it.

@pamjwilson@Fouss @jreulbach @aanthonya@mgolding i use it for exit slips/post it note quizzes, most reds have been absent, their way to ask for help

me:     yes! That's where I saw it! On your blog. 

@mgolding@Fouss Would it go like? 1) Ss do warmup, 2) you post solution, 3) Ss check, 4) Ss place their warmup in right bin. @jreulbach @aanthonya

@pamjwilson@Fouss @jreulbach @aanthonya@mgolding use exit slips, if alot Y/R, address as whole class nxt day, if a few, pull Ss over sm grp or 1 on 1

@hey_bl: @Fouss @jreulbach @aanthonya@mgolding I like it because it doesn't give them the "I give up" option

me:      I was thinking "reds" wld need to give explanation of what struggling with.

me:      too many reds = scheduled tutoring time

@pamjwilson@Fouss @hey_bl @jreulbach@aanthonya @mgolding *love* this idea! reds tell what you do know/ are having trouble with.

@jreulbach@Fouss @hey_bl @aanthonya@mgolding @pamjwilson are you going to keep an official record of reds for tutoring?

me     would be easy to set up a spreadsheet for that. And good info if parents ask.

**I just came up with this form that I may use for the warm up/cool down idea....

As for homework, I am determined not to check for completion of a regular basis (like I've done in the past). I could either ask the kids to write down some specified problems on a half-sheet for me and grade those, give them similar problems to turn in for me, or just randomly collect and grade a few problems per assignment. That definitely gives me some options!

Speaking of grading, I've always given grades based on points. (258/431 = whatever percent) What do you all think of weighting grades? I'd only use them because I hate having homework count for so much, but if I'm grading assignments more (instead of using completion) then it wouldn't be as bad.

I invested in 19 composition books and about the same number of rolls of tape and am going to try the Interactive Notebook in my Algebra 1 classes (1 honors, 1 general). Megan Hayes-Golding is leading a session at Twitter Math Camp next week on how she uses them in class, so I'm excited to see how she does them. (Here's her INB post) With that, I've been saving a lot of links and images to foldables and would like to use them, too, especially with the INB.

I think that's it. For now. :)

Monday, July 9, 2012

School Supplies

I always love shopping for school supplies for my kids. It really wasn't until this year (and #made4math) that I started looking for me.

The other day @druinok revealed all of the stuff she'd gotten from a trip to Target. What did I do? I packed up the kids and off we went!

I wasn't as lucky.

Today I took the kids to Walmart to get my girl's kindergarten supplies (she's soooo excited for school!). And while we were there I did a little browsing. They've got some awesome $.88 bins with teacher-y stuff, so I went crazy!

Here's what I got:

Two packs of these cute file folders. ($.88 each)

12 rulers ($.25 each)

Five 2-packs of tape ($1 each) - a necessity if I decide to do interactive student notebooks

Random sharpies ($.88 each)

Cute binder clips (I loooove these things!)

Random word bubble things

Magnetic weekly schedule things

Little bins

Pencils ($1.12 a box) they're not Ticonderoga, but they'll do as loaners!

Now I just need to hide all of this before hubby gets home!

#Made4Math Monday (Week 2)

I had a lot of ideas running through my head after last week's post. First, I thought I'd steal @druinok's pringle can idea.

Luckily I have several friends who eat Pringles on a regular basis (saves me the calories!) and we're willing to share their empties. Add in some cool duck tape and voila! Pretty storage cans.
My plan was to go to school on Friday and get a bunch of stuff laminated (because I love me some laminating!). Luckily, I called first and checked to make sure that I could get to it; because of some painting they're doing in the media center the laminator wasn't accessible.  Boo. 
So this week I'm going to go non-creative and share what I put together last year when trying to do some planning for Precalc.  For the first time I'd given summer work to help me avoid having to spend weeks reviewing Algebra 2 topics once school started.  So then I had to go through the first chapter in the precalc book to figure out what had been reviewed and what needed to be.  
Here's what I've come up with for my first two chapters (working on chapter 3 + was on my #summerlist!)
Here's what I'm giving to fill in some of the holes...
Here's the rest of my chapter 1 stuff... still trying to figure out what exactly I want to do this year!

Monday, July 2, 2012

#Made4math Attempt #1

A few days ago there were some rumblings around the twittersphere (thanks to @druinok and @pamjwilson) about bringing craftiness into the math classroom.  A challenge was sent out for people to make something and post a link to it on Monday.  I'm hoping that's not every Monday (as I'm sure I'll run out of ideas pretty soon) but I thought I'd give it a shot.

Unfortunately, I didn't have a whole lot of time today to throw much together. One idea I'd had, though, was to post the "Be Less Helpful" phrase somewhere in my room so that I remember to do it (it's such a struggle for me not to give in and make the kids do some thinking on their own).

So here's what I came up with:

It's a $3 frame with "Be Less Helpful" in Raditad font (which you can find here).  I printed it in red, yellow, and green to remind me of the stoplight idea I'd like to try to use in class this year (more on that later.... or you can go to Simplifying Radicals to read about it).

I might decorate the frame a bit (my 5 year old picked out some glitter glue the other day at the store) but for now that's all I've got.

I'll try my best to come up with something better for next week... maybe using that fun scrapbook paper I bought today?