Thursday, August 30, 2012


I'm really liking the kids sitting in tables (formed by my desks together). It really promotes the idea that they can (and should) discuss and work through problems together.

I just need to lay the smack down on the freshmen who are talking constantly.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

INB Update

After hearing about INBs (Interactive Notebooks) from Megan Hayes-Golding this summer at TMC, I'd decided I wanted to give them a try in my Algebra 1 classes.  I was looking forward to the organization that it would provide the kids.

So now we're a full week in, and I'm sorting through my thoughts.
1. I think that after we all get the hang of what to put where (and how to number pages), keeping the INB will be good for the kids. We just all need to get "on the same page". (Ha!)
2.  The tape that I bought before school started is going fast. Geesh! Who knew that a bunch of freshmen would use up a roll of tape in no time?!  I got the cheap ones from Walmart when all of the school supplies came out, and they're obviously teeny little rolls. I'll need to do a little research to see what I should get.
3.  The kids are enjoying the hands-on aspect of the INB.  (They call it "arts and crafts".)  But they've been pretty good about keeping their space nice and neat and cleaning up after themselves.
4. Things take a lot longer to get through when you have to cut, tape, and write in the table of contents. But for someone who had trouble filling a class period at times, that can be a good thing.
5. I still need to get more into foldables.  I've done a few with my Honors Alg1 class but none with my Integrated. It would probably help them more, but I feel like I'm rushing with them. I think I just need to get my feet under me first.
6. I've been keeping an INB for both classes but keep losing track of what's going where in the table of contents. So today I made some big posters to hang on my whiteboard so I can keep track of everything (and help the kids keep a list, too).  This is just yellow paper from the big rolls that are around that I laminated, wrote on with dry erase marker, and hung on the board. Hoping that'll help us all.
7. The left-hand page is currently being used for warm-ups. I think it was Julie who said that was the hardest part of keeping the INB. I didn't get that until now.
8. A boy in my Honors Alg1 class hasn't made it to class yet; apparently he has some anxiety issues and doesn't want to come to school. I've been told he's very bright, so the material we've covered (which most of the kids knew anyway) shouldn't be a problem. My issue was what to do with his INB. I'm thinking that I'll go ahead and print out copies of my notes and tape stuff in for him so he can jump right in with the rest of the class.  But what happens if someone moves in halfway through the year? Just pick up where they come in?
9. I have a special ed aide in my class with me every day 7th period who is so on board with the INBs it's ridiculous. She's coming from an elementary school and I think this is right up her alley (but I'll take all the support I can get!). She said she met with some supervisor yesterday at the Admin Building just to talk about how things were going and told the person all about me and my class and the notebooks.

I've had problems in the past with keeping up with things. I get an idea, jump in, and then it fizzles after a bit. I'm determined not to let this go.

I've been trying to figure out why I've felt so unprepared the past few days after working so much this summer on school stuff... and then I realized that I'm prepping warm ups, notes, and exit slips for my Algebra 1 classes (in addition to keeping the INBs ready to go). Last year I just had the notes.

And so now it all makes sense.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

#hsSunFun: Organization

I realized one day last week that I didn't have access to my folder on the network at school, so I put in a tech ticket and our tech guy came to my room during 6th period on Friday. He did some fiddling (after promising that nothing he would do would lose any of my stuff) then told me he couldn't get it done then and would have to come back.

No problem, I say.

So about an hour ago I sar down to write about my methods of Organization when I realized that all of the pictures that I'd saved on my computer were missing. As in, there were NO pictures on my computer.

And so I started to hyperventilate.

I immediately tweeted about it, and @aanthonya came to my rescue. He suggested I do a search for a picture and in doing so I ended up finding a file with all of my pictures. It was in something called "SyncDocuments" and had my old user name in it (we migrated from a "dot" to "no dot" this summer... as in from "kristen.fouss" to "kristenfouss" and people have had issues with missing files).  So at this moment I'm saving all of my pictures to my dropbox folder (and then moving them to my desktop upstairs) for temporary measures.

So, back to organization. Isn't this somewhat ironic?!

I pride myself on my organization at school. On my computer I have folders set up for each class, a folder for each chapter, and sometimes folders within that. It may take me a minute to get to an embedded file folder, but I always know where my documents are.

As for the paper stuff, I do ok with that. I have a (laminated) folder set up for each class in which I put all of their papers. Within those folders I separate assignments by paperclips... or my favorites, binder clips. I have a 2-drawer file cabinet with multiple hanging files set up for each class that I drop their prepared assignments in (like right now I have all of my chapter 2 notes for Algebra 1 done and dropped in their folders) and I keep a folder in the front of the drawer for any extras that I may have made.

On my side bulletin/chalk board I have folders for each class so that when a student is absent and I've passed something out, I put their paper in the folder with their name on it (so I can tell if they've picked it up or not!).  I made a big weekly calendar on that board so I can write up the daily assignments for each class; I'm thinking of taking a picture of it and posting it on Schoology for kids to reference if they're interested.  We'll see if that ends up being necessary.

About a year and a half ago I gravitated to Google Calendar to keep my lesson plans in.  And I use the words "lesson plans" very loosely... I'm not the type to do the whole objective/resources/whatever stuff.  I write down the section number and title and maybe the homework assignment, so gcal works well for me.  I also really like how you can just move stuff around if something comes up and you need to change the schedule; no more erasing or drawing big arrows in the lesson plan book!

I've had kids mention in the past that I'm one of the most organized teachers they have. I've suffered in that department a bit (since trying to get them more active in class) but I think I still rank up there. :)

My husband just wishes it would make its way home, too.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Two days down...

Oh so tired. I don't know about the rest of you, but it takes me a good 2 weeks to get back in "school shape". I think all the extra sleep hours I stored up from this summer are already gone; who decided that 7:20 was a good time to start school anyway?!

Everything's gone pretty good so far. The QR Code activity that I did in precalc went over well; the kids really for the gist of what we'll be learning this year. It worked out well for the first day, too, since one of my classes had their class meetings during precalc, so they didn't really miss anything.

My Algebra 1 groups (honors and general) started their INBs today; we got twice as much done in honors, though I'm not surprised. Two-thirds of my general class are on IEPs (including a girl from Cambodia who speaks no English). One of our special ed teachers is supposed to be in there on a daily basis, so that's nice. I haven't had any trouble with the kids, but one of them did tell me that his favorite number was 69... because it's his football number. Uh huh. He could be one to keep an eye on.

My precalc classes are pretty unbalanced; I've got 28, 23, and 19. Then today I got an email saying that I'm going to get a new student in my class of 28... so not only is it getting bigger but it totally messes up my 4-desk groups. It was probably irrational of me but I was ticked. (I'm going to blame it on the tired thing.) Still trying to figure out what to do with that extra desk. (I'm totally going to ignore the fact that last year I had 2 precalcs at 32 and 33 and my "small" one was 27.)

Hubby just asked if it was ok if he goes out with a friend tomorrow night... He's obviously learned that I probably won't be awake past 9 pm. :)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Homework solution (?)

I think I've decided what to do with my ever-constant homework grading issue.  My problem is that I hate to just give completion credit, but I don't want to grade it because of (1) time and (2) the possibility that it may take the students more practice to get the skills down.

I've finally settled on a hybrid of the two, at least in my Algebra 1 classes.  I have a total of 32 students in my two classes (which I'm pretty happy about!). While they're working on a warm-up each day or checking their answers, I'll walk around the room and give a stamp for completion.  I just bought those cute little guys at Staples (except they don't say Office Depot, obviously). Then after we go over questions I'll collect their assignments and pick 2 - 3 problems to grade.  I'll give 3 points for completion and 2 points per graded problem for a total of 7 - 9 points.

Does that sound reasonable?

In precalc I'm not going to give any completion points, but I'll collect some of the class every day and grade 3 - 4 problems.  I have the kids sitting in groups of 4 and have numbered the groups 1 - 7 so I'll either randomly generate 4 numbers of tables to turn in or pick odds or evens.  That way not every kid is turning in an assignment every day but it's always a possibility (and it's different from class to class; that's important to me so my 6th period doesn't assume theirs will be collected/not).

I know I'm rambling a bit, but I wanted to get this down for my own benefit... while I still remembered and had a plan!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Using QR Codes

I want to preface this by saying that I'm totally stealing this from Megan Hayes-Golding. Please check out her post here!

Megan did this awesome activity where she set up QR codes around her room as a scavenger hunt to help lead her students through the locations of important stuff in her room (like the pencil sharpener and eye wash) as well as some topics they'll be talking about this year.

While I don't really have locations to worry about, I thought it would be fun to put an activity like this together for precalc.  I listed 8 different topics we'll be covering this year (parametric eqs, polar, trig, unit circle, vectors, limits, sequences) and then searched online for articles and videos using those ideas.

I created a QR code for each of the links I'd found (if you use Chrome, there's a QR Code Generator in the store that's super easy to use!), then copied and pasted them onto a word document that I'll cut apart and tape around the room.

My goal is to give the kids a good idea of some topics they'll see this year in a fun way (instead of making them guess what we'll do).

I downloaded a new Pirate font (I do love me some fonts!) and then typed up directions for the kids on top of a treasure map. It turned out pretty cute.

Here's what I came up with!

Now I'll just have to pray that the wireless internet at school isn't acting goofy on Wednesday. Fingers crossed!

Monday, August 13, 2012

#Made4Math August 13

How did it get to be August 13th already?! So much to do, so little time.

I finished up my room last week at school so I'm hoping to not go in this week. There's definitely stuff I could get done (like copies and such) but I'd rather spend time with the kids doing fun stuff. As long as they're not fighting, anyway.

So my #made4math today is the sticker I made for each of my kids. Last summer I bought a couple of packs of Avery shipping stickers. The Avery website has templates that you can pick from to create your stickers, one of which includes a QR code generator.  I typed in the information that I wanted on it, printed, and voila! Stickers.

I passed them out to the kids on the first day and told them to stick it on their school-issued planner. Last year I kept a blog for each class and had the QR code go there; this year we're using a platform called Schoology so that's where the code goes.

I don't think too many kids actually used the QR code (or knew what it was until I told them) but some of the more techy ones thought it was pretty cool.   Dan Bowdoin just posted on his blog some neat ideas to use QR codes in the classroom that I'd like to try.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

#hsSunFun: First Day Activities

Starting the first day(s) of school with something comfortable is always a challenge for me. I hate to just stand at the front and talk as much as I'm sure they hate to just sit and listen. Each year I rethink what I want to do to try and make things better.

Upon arrival this year I'd like to give each student a playing card. I have my desks arranged in groups of 4 (right now, anyway) and that would be an easy way to get them to sit. Most of these kids know each other pretty well so it's nice to mix it up a bit.  I figure I could have an "8", "9", "10", etc. group.

I go through all the names next (because I like to know how to pronounce names and find out nicknames) then start in on these slides:

[I don't have my birthday calendar up this year; I think I'll just post monthly birthdays on their respective boards.]

The QR code is there because last year I made stickers for each of the kids with a QR code for the class blog along with my email address and blog address.  I think I'll do that again this year but include my class twitter id, too.

Here's the quiz I give them:
The majority of these kids don't know me so it's a total guessing game, but they really try and logically figure things out. I always accuse the ones who do the best of stalking me. :)  I made a powerpoint to show the answers.

The only thing I don't like about this is that it puts too much attention on me. Not my thing.

After taking the "quiz" I ask the kids to write down some numbers that describe their lives. Then I collect and write comments back to them.

I'm not happy with the question I gave... it's pretty dry though it gets them thinking. I want to look for another one that will get them talking to each other.

The only thing I changed for my Algebra 1 class was the final question.  I gave them this one:
"Seven girls were walking down the street.  Each had seven backpacks, and each backpack held seven adult cats.  Each adult cat was pregnant with seven kittens.  How many legs were there?"

Made for some fun conversation!

Friday, August 10, 2012

#MyFavFriday : Tweet me!

I don't know about you all, but twitter's really caught on in my school with the high school crowd. A few years ago when I told the kids that I had a class twitter account they laughed at me and said twitter was "for old people". I tried not to take offense. :)  In the past year or so, though, they've become tweetaholics.

I enjoy twitter, but I loooove trig. The perfect world is combining the two! So when we finished it up this year I gave them the assignment to tweet me. They had to include #trigis ("trig is") and then give their description/definition of trig. And, of course, they had to keep it <= 140 characters.  (Props went to the people who were the closest - I made them count!)

It turned out to be a lot of fun. The kids were amazed at how much they had to think to get their description in 140 characters instead of some long rambling description. And oh, the hash tags that they included.  I put all of their entries together on some slides so they could check out each other's work.

Without further ado, here's #myFavFriday for this week.

The only thing I might do differently for next year is give them a pre-made template to work from with 140 little boxes. I think it would help us all out.

I was hoping that a bunch of the kids would actually tweet their replies, but only a few did. Guess they didn't want to show their friends how nerdy they are :)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

#hsSunFun First Day Activities

Looking for something good for the first day of school? Tired of reading your rules all day?

Yeah, me too.

Carol Leonard is collecting blog posts about what high school math teachers do on the first day (or first few days, even). We're stealing Julie's tag and calling it #hsSunFun (though you don't need to wait until Sunday to post!).

Check out Carol's post about how to get involved. If you're not on twitter, I'm sure she wouldn't mind if you posted a link in her comments.

I just realized that I'll be out of town on Sunday so that means I'll have to do this early. And I'm supposed to take my computer to the tech people at school tomorrow for an undetermined length of time, which means I need to do this tonight so I can look through my files. Could make for a busy night!

If you're looking for something to do around 9 pm Eastern tonight, Megan Hayes-Golding is hosting a talk via bigmarker about INBs. Check it out!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Room update

I made it in to school today for a couple of hours this afternoon and did some more work on my room. I think one more trip will take care of it... I don't know that I've ever spent this much time getting my room ready in the summer! (Darn you, #made4math!)

I started off by laminating a few things. I got these posters from And they were free!

I also laminated these guys, which I found on #pinterest (ha!) and typed up myself.

Then I played with my room arrangement for a bit. I'm thinking about going for groups of four desks as long as I can get them spaced out how I like them.  This picture isn't great, but they look like this (courtesy of @druinok). Anthony just wrote a blog post about how he's going to use this arrangement, too... and how he's come up with a "Cone of Silence" to use while testing.

I found these lovelies at the Target dollar stop today.  I've seriously spent too much money there this summer! I'm thinking of using them to put supplies in for each group to use with INBs. You can see a glimpse of the border that I put around my whiteboard behind the bins.

I put my new Einstein poster up by 2 others (think I'll call it my Einstein corner) behind another Target find. Although I bought some crates to put the INBs in, I like these holders, too. And they're smaller.  I think they win!
And I finished my board! Except for putting up the letters. I love the blue! I'm going to put worksheets in the folders for kids that are absent. I ended up just putting a long strip of magnet on the back of the folder and stuck it up there. Hopefully that will hold and I won't have to tape it.

#Made4Math August 6

I admit it. I'm crafted out.

Two weeks from today I'll be reporting back to school (for two days of inservice) before the kids come on the 22nd... at this point I'm starting to think of more concrete things that I want/need to get done before school starts.

I started with revamping my first-day google form (that I linked to here). I thought it would be fun to add some pages to it so that it would take the kids to different questions depending on what class they were in. After doing this I discovered that I didn't really have different questions to ask, but I went ahead and changed some wording. Like, instead of "List the teachers you've had at Anderson" for the precalc kids, I put "List your 8th grade teacher" for the freshmen. I know. Probably a huge waste of time... but it gave me some practice with the pages option!  My new survey is here.

I found out on Wednesday (thanks to @mseiler) that my Integrated Algebra 1 (which isn't Integrated... it's just the name for our General class because they didn't want to call it General) is going to be 7th period. Seriously?  I think the general classes should all be held in the morning (before the kids have really woken up!) and definitely not 7th period. Oh well. This just reinforces my ideas to use Warm Ups, INBs, foldables, and exit slips. I want to keep these guys as busy as possible so I don't have to hear the constant whining about how hot it is in my classroom at 1:30 pm everyday.

Things on my to-do list:
1. Polish up my class syllabi.
2. Do a layout of what order to do Honors Alg 1... should I leave in the Chapter 2 basics?  @druinok (I think) mentioned a post on Math Tales From the Spring discussing what to start the year with.  I have trouble teaching adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing positive and negative numbers with my Honors Algebra 1 kids. Maybe I'll do a 2-day boot camp and throw in fractions.  (Though I like to do a "Fun Fraction Friday" review with them every week too.)
3.  Get the even answers to summer precalc work on their Schoology page.
4.  Check with @approx_normal to see what she does with her SWHHW no-homework page.
5. Find things to do the first couple of days at school that don't involve the INB. I'd rather wait until after the first weekend to make sure kids have time to get a composition notebook.

A few things to take note of:

  • If you're a middle school teacher, check out Julie Reulbach's blog. She posted a survey as well as a Middle School Sunday Funday idea
  • If you're a high school teacher, please fill out Lisa Henry's survey.
  • Megan Hayes-Golding is rocking the INB. Her newest post deals with what to do with homework... and that pesky LHP problem.
  • Sam Shah put together a welcome site for new math teacher tweeters/bloggers. If this describes you or you're considering tweeting/blogging, please check it out.

Olympic stuff:

  • Just watched a guy do a hammer throw on the Olympics after spinning around a bunch. Wonder what his angular and linear velocity were?!  Might have to find a clip for precalc; here's one from the 2004 Olympics.
  • A (non-math) teacher friend just posted this link on fb about how many feet Usain Bolt would've beaten previous 100-m Olympic gold medalists by. I'm thinking that I'll need to re-do my 400-m world record times activity that I use in Precalc for linear regression. What a great update!

Sorry this isn't really #Made4Math-y (if you don't count my revamped gform).   I'm all over the place tonight. Must sleep.