My Best Back To School Night

I am taking the plunge and actually  taking part in the #MTBoS 2017 Blogging initiative. To be honest I have been very hesitant to write anything because this is an intimidating group. (Not your personalities but all the cool things you do and share…it’s hard to measure up)  I have been stealing (borrowing) from all of you forever.  I wanted to post something I actually created myself. So…here it goes.

I have done BTSN for the past 20+ years and it wasn’t until this past fall that I felt like I finally got it “right”.  I tried many things to make my BTSN presentation worth the parents time…but let’s be honest, most (middle school/high school) parents come for one of two reason….

  1.  The want to put a face with a name
  2. They don’t want to seem like they’re not interested so they show up (I am guilty!!)

So why have I bored them…going over procedures, HW policy etc.??? (Principal’s push this) while adding some humor and having bowls of candy at each table set.

I now teach at a middle school and our BTSN occurs the week before school starts.  This year I emailed parents a link to my website where all my procedures etc can be found. My letter was upbeat, enthusiastic etc. (email me if you want a copy). Here is the presentation I gave to Intro to Algebra and Geometry grade 8   Here is the Advanced Algebra presentation.

They are pretty basic…After I introduced myself I use the 2nd slide with all of the quotes on it to talk about my philosophy of teaching math etc. (3rd slide is just our math sequencing through high school) The BEST part is the dot slide (…thank you Jo Boaler)

I told the parents/students etc. that I was going to put a slide up for about 2 seconds…they were to look for a pattern to find the number of dots I “flashed” up. I then invited those in the room to share out how they saw the dots.  It was soooo cool. I had parents share, students share, and very young siblings share and there were so many different ways people saw these dots.  The whole purpose of course is to let parents and students know there is more than one way to solve a problem.  I then talked about how if they find a better or different way of doing something they needed to share it with all of us. Cuz…many times my students have a “better” way of solving problems than I do. I have learned so much from my students by having them share their thinking.

The feedback I received that night from parents was amazing. They loved it!! The kids loved it! Whenever I met with parents this year they mention how much they enjoyed and appreciated it. (That’s a first for me!)


Youcubed Week of Inspiration Math day 1

I have been reading Jo Boaler’s Mathematical Mindsets (which I highly recommend). While it is the last week of school and I had planned on giving finals to my 8th graders this week…after reading a few chapters of Jo’s book (and due to the fact I was out all last week) I bagged the final and decided to go to youcubed to see what I could find. Low and behold I found the Week of Inspiration Math.  I did the first lesson today.

I began the lesson by having my students complete this questionnaire.  I then took the idea from Jo’s book (p. 15)…students thought of a time they were frustrated in math class~crumpled up a piece of paper and threw it at the board~they then picked up a piece of crumpled paper~”flattened” it out and traced all of the crumpled lines with a marker~these lines represented their brain growth when they make mistakes in math class. We then posted the papers all around the room. (I did not do this with my advanced students yet, but they are so curious as to what all these crumpled/straightened out papers with lines all over them have to do with math class).

We then did the Four 4’s activity.  Just as Jo said…the students were engaged, challenged and on task ~which is quite a feat considering it’s the last few days of school and they are 8th graders 🙂

To be continued tomorrow…We will be doing the day 2 tasks

Does anyone else feel overwhelmed??

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Anyone else feel like this??

I read a lot of other teachers posts and constantly steal (maybe borrow~ sometimes buy) their wonderful ideas.  However…while I get a lot of great ideas from all of you, I also feel very inferior. I have no idea how you all “Do It All”. Admittedly one of my biggest problems is wanting to change so much of what I do that it almost paralyzes me.  Or…I start something and don’t follow through with it. For example…I started out the year religiously doing Number Talks. I loved them the students loved them and I think we all learned so much about “cool ways” other people’s minds work. BUT soon the pressure of making sure I met all of the standards started to creep into my class and Number Talks soon stopped 😦 (we only have 40 minute class periods which doesn’t sound too different from a 45 minute class, but trust me there is a HUGE difference).

I have wanted to blog for years but felt too intimidated by all the awesome things everyone else is doing…so I am making a commitment to write down the things I want to do and keep track of them on this blog…does anyone else have of stacks of paper or a bunch of notebooks and/or folders where you collect everything you want to do ‘sometime’??  For me they sit around for a while…time goes by…I look at them and get overwhelmed again so I usually keep the ‘stack’ just where it is or throw everything out vowing to start over again in a more organized manner…haha.  To be honest I am a mess…

This is where I am going to write what I think I want to change/add etc. next school year…(I am sure this will be added to subtracted from etc…but at least I’ll have all my crazy thoughts in one place…or maybe not ;0

  1. How I assign and grade homework~ possible ideas (lagging homework…thank you Henri Picciotto…) So many of my students don’t do their homework OR end up copying their homework from others…I have tried collecting it everyday and grading 3 problems…just checking for completeness…not checking it at all and having my answers posted online …I like the whole brain teaching idea  (Chris Biffle) of getting the students to work toward getting so many homework points as a class and if they reach their goal they get to play mind soccer…which I played with my 8th grade students this spring and they LOVED it and wanted to play it everyday. So HW is in the “…to be continued” mode.
  2. I want to do a better job of holding my students accountable for their left side entries in their INB
  3. I need to differentiate more
  4. Learn and explore DESMOS~ DESMOS intimidates me because I know so little about it and see so many cool things teachers are doing with it~ but this old lady needs help
  5. Need to do a better job of incorporating the 8 MP into my daily routine
  6. Want my students to write more about their thinking~not sure if they should do this in a notebook that they hand in every few days~ should they do it in google classroom???
  7. Do a better job of organizing my INB entries for students who are absent..
  8. Scope and Sequence for PA Common Core Math

I could go on and on…but this is a good start and I am sure I will back to edit.

End of year Assignment

I don’t know about any of your students but my students can’t wait to “throw away” everything in their notebooks at the end of the year.  It always “crushed me” that all the work they did throughout the year and all the progress they made was just “thrown away”. (Well not really crush me but you get the idea 🙂

So…2 years ago…I started keeping all of my students test and quizzes until the end of the year. I really wanted them to see how far they “had come”. They look at that first test of the year and can’t believe the things they missed. It’s fun to listen to them talk to each other.  And no matter what they say…I think even the students who act like it’s such a chore to do this assignment actually get a lot out of it. (And they realize how much they learned this year about math and about themselves)


Review for 8th grade PSSA

I am always looking for good review ideas for End of Grade Test. This year I pulled my review questions from multiple resources…(Louisiana, New York, PAARC, Smarter Balanced etc…) and made a Scavenger Hunt.

I just cut out each problem (MC) posted them around the room and gave students the answer sheet. You’ll notice the possible answers are a little goofy…because after they check with me and once their answers are correct I  give them the code sheet. For more advanced students you may want to skip the code sheet and have them unscramble the phrase…STARBURST OR KITKAT?!!

The students thought it was a lot of fun. In order to keep the “prize” a secret, the students had to eat their candy outside of the class. In addition they were to tell their friends that had not had math yet that class was really boring etc. etc.  Believe it or not none of the classes came in knowing about the candy.

Here is the activity...


First post…yikes

I have been following everyone else’s blog and to be honest I feel a little bit intimidated to write something. I am not sure I have much to offer. But…I have to start somewhere…right?

For the past 3 years I have been teaching 8th grade Connected Math along with 8th grade Advanced Algebra in central PA.  Prior to coming to the middle school I taught at the local high school…everything from soup to nuts…Algebra 1, Advanced Algebra 2, Algebra 2, low-level integrated courses years 1,2, 3 and 4, Pre-Calculus, Calculus (not AP…thank goodness) HOWEVER…I have yet to figure out the best way to teach math…and I have been “at it” for 15+ years.  There is so much I want to do and change about my teaching style that I sometimes get overwhelmed on where to start.

Thanks to many of your blogs and posts I have made some changes i.e. Interactive Math Notebooks. Thank you Math = Love.  However…I want to incorporate more…i.e Estimation 180, Math talks, Writing in Math class and on and on.  My method of teaching is somewhat different than my counterparts…I am more of a let’s have a plan but be ready and willing to change that plan depending upon students understanding of the concepts. I am not the teacher who has plans and homework mapped out weeks in advance…I am the person running to the copier first thing in the morning because a great Idea came to me in the middle of the night or on my drive into work.  I am definitely not your anal retentive math teacher…hence my desk is always a mess (but I know where everything is and can usually find it in an instant) my room always looks like a tornado just went through….very much organized chaos.

I will stop here…Next time I hope to post something more interesting and more useful.

Happy Summer to all!