Saturday, January 7, 2017

#OneWord2017 Reflection and Lesson

Instead of making full-blown new year's resolutions, I have joined the movement of choosing just one word. Two years ago, I chose "calm" and last year my word was "authentic." This year, I have chosen the word purposeful.

I decided to choose "purposeful" because I think it is going to help me be more focused and intentional this year. I tend to be one of those people that say yes to everything before I really know what is being asked of me. While I love having my hands in several projects at a time, it can sometimes make me feel a bit scattered and I'm wondering if I'm having as much of an impact as I would like.

My work feels like a calling to me. It's something I think about in my free time. I like blogging about it and connecting with other educators-- it's almost like a job and hobby! It feels like there is a bigger purpose and that is important to me. Helping others find their "purpose" in education is something I can do as a coach. They might not enjoy the same aspects of their work that I do, but there are can be other aspects that move them and help them feel connected, appreciated, and successful.

Being purposeful this year means (to me):

-ask more questions before saying yes to things. For example, just asking "why did you think of me for this project?" or "what skills do you think I have that will contribute positively to this?" could help clarify a lot!

-help teachers, through coaching, find (or continue to have) purpose in their work.

-continue to advocate for "purposeful" integration of technology in classrooms. I love tech, I think it's impactful, but I also hate the idea of using technology just for tech's sake. However, I also am really frustrated when people think that educational technology can be ignored and we can continue to do things "they way we always have."

-I'm reading The Art of Coaching by Elena Aguilar and there are so many great ideas for how to ask questions for different purposes when coaching. It takes a lot of thought and practice to develop this skill. I'm working on it, but I think being really "purposeful" with my questions will help.


Last year, I did a One Word lesson with my students when we got back from winter break. I think it is a really worthwhile activity. I gave students this list and let them pick a word that meant something to them. I had them tweet their One Word.

This year, I came across this post from Marilyn McAlister (@RunnerGirl13_1) with some great ideas for making this a lesson in your classroom. I would totally steal borrow 😀 her hyperdoc idea if I had my own classroom this year!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Welcome 2017!

Many people are glad to see 2016 go, and while I agree there were some difficult things about the past year, there were also some really great things. My son was born, I started a new role as instructional coach, and I became an ICTM board member! That being said, I do like the new year because it is a time to reflect and set some goals for the upcoming year. So, welcome 2017, the 306th prime number!

When you have little kids, the party peaks at about 6pm. In fact, this year the kids all had pretty bad colds. So, I wiped everyone's noses, got out our "party" decorations and gathered the fam for a group selfie. My 2-year old was into it for about 5 minutes and then declared, "party over." :)

Here's to a great 2017! I hope you find happiness and success both professionally and personally in the new year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Illinois Math Ed Bloggers

Being a new Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics board member has me thinking about ways to connect more teachers across the state. I want to put my obsession knowledge of social media/blogs/Twitter to some good use!

I've been the main editor of the Facebook page for ICTM for some time now (like the page, if you haven't yet!). I also recently volunteered to help with the Twitter account (@MathICTM). I really want to expand the use of these tools to help more Illinois math teachers feel connected outside of our annual conference. While there are some teachers that participate in #MTBoS, I want to bring more of that to our state.

A Twitter chat might be one way we could do this. I'm still thinking on this because timing is important to help build momentum and make sure it is sustainable. Evenings are pretty busy for me right now with the kiddos, so I've not been participating in as many chats as I had in the past. I'm sure this busy bedtime phase will pass, so I'll be back to my old, Twitter-chatting self soon.

The other idea I had was to reach out to the math education bloggers in the state. I made a Google Form to gather a list of Illinois math education bloggers. If you blog, be sure to fill it out! So far we have 9 bloggers. I made this interactive ThingLink to make it easier for people to follow the blogs.

(click on the image to see the 9 "pins")

In addition, I plan to highlight 1 blog per week starting in January on our Facebook and Twitter accounts. I'm looking forward to this blogger-focus and hoping it brings more traffic to the blogs and also connects more math educators.

If you have any other ideas for how I might encourage more virtual collaboration using social media, I would love to hear it!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Week-Before-Winter-Break Math Game

There are days leading up to break when you want to do something:
1. "mathy"
2. low-tech
3. fun
4. engaging that will keep everyone's attention!

It's that time of year when teachers need a math game idea. My post about activities to do the last weeks of school is one of my most viewed because of this exact thing.

I wrote about this game, "Draw 10", in the post I mentioned above, but I don't think it got much attention, probably because I didn't explain it well or give examples of how it will look as you play it, so I wanted to fix that. This game is fun for grade levels 3-12. With younger kids you will want to play the whole numbers version, while older students will be more challenged by the decimal version. ((Speaking of older kids, it would be really interesting if someone adapted this into another base besides base-10!))

To play Draw 10 you will need:

1. The game boards printed for your students. I usually try to fit quite a few on one piece of paper so you can play several rounds.

2. A way to choose numbers 1-9. Ideas for this are playing cards 1-9, index cards with numbers 1-9, or a random number generator app/website on your phone, tablet, or computer.

Basic Rules:
Each student uses a new table each game. Before you begin, you set a goal. For example, "1000." You draw a card from the pile and announce it to the class. Let's say you draw a 6. Students can either record the value in the hundreds, tens, or ones column (600, 60, or 6) and put the total on the right. You have to play that number at that time. The number 6 goes back into the pile-- every number has an equal chance of occurring each round (students often think if a 6 has been drawn, it is unlikely to be drawn again-- nice chance to talk about probability!) Next round, draw another card. Students choose a column and record, adding that value to the previous total. You can't go back and change any values and you must play all 10 rounds (even if you have already met the goal). Also, each student might choose a different column, so their totals are different. At the end, whoever is closest to the "goal" wins. 

What it might look like to play:

Goal this round is set as 1000.

Let's say you draw a "3." Student A could make it worth 300, 30, or 3. Here is a student making it in the 10's column, so it is worth 30. They right their current total.

The next draw might be "4." Here Student A chooses to make that worth 400. They put their current total as 430, which is adding the values from round 1 and 2.

Here is an example of a different student (Student B) playing the same game. They choose to put both rounds in the 100's place, so their total is 700 instead of 430. 

Here are what the game board might look like after you play all 10 rounds. Remember, students must play all 10 rounds even if they go over the goal. Also, you have to play each round at the time the number is called (you can't go back and changed previous rounds).

Student A

Student B

Student B wins because they are closest to the goal of 1000.

How it might look to play with the decimals:

Goal is set at 3.
Student A

Student B
Student A wins because they are only .15 away from the goal. I like to play that it is okay to be over or under, just whoever is closest to the goal wins. (this gives an opportunity to connect to absolute value)

Ideas and modifications to consider or try:
1. Let all or some students use a calculator
2. Experiement with different goals. What does a really large goal do to game play? How about really small?
3. Let students "go back" and change one value they regret
4. Let students work in partners
5. Play as a station game instead of as a class
6. Play this game at another time of year, maybe when discussing place value!
7. Use this game to talk about some other math topics that come up during play such as probability and absolute value (distance to goal number).
8. Have students discuss in groups or class their strategies.

I want to mention that, as all good teachers do, I totally borrowed this game idea from another teacher-- and perhaps she got it from another source, too. About 10 years ago, NCTM had a regional conference in Chicago. I tried looking up the year, but the NCTM website doesn't have info back that far on their conference page. I wanted to go, so I paid my own way and took a personal day from school and attended. I went to a session by a teacher that showed us this game! She had us play as a group and gave us a packet with a copy of the chart used to play. I have since lost track of that original packet and have no idea the name of the teacher presenting. Was it you? Someone you know? Let me know so I can give you credit!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

LAUNCH: #D100bloggerPD Book Study

I'm excited to be back participating in a #D100bloggerPD book study! We are a group of bloggers in Berwyn South District 100 that read and blog. It's a great community of learners and a fun way to jigsaw our way through some great education books!

This time, we are reading the book, LAUNCH, by John Spencer and A.J. Juliani. Thanks to Jenny Lehotsky for organizing this study! Jenny is an amazing instructional coach with a passion for design thinking and personalized learning. She is also a TED-Ed Innovative Educator (impressive!). You can check out the post about Chapter 1 on Jenny's blog, Teaching and Learning Redefined.

click on the "ThingLink" above to go to participating blogs & posts!

Now it's on to my assignment, which was Chapter 2. This chapter was titled, "Finding Your Creative Approach," and was all about recognizing and celebrating the fact that everyone is creative in their own way.

The chapter goes on to define six types of teacher. Each has it's own way that creativity plays out depending on the strengths of that type. In reality, you might find yourself identifying with more than one or many of the types depending on the situation. However, the authors say you probably aren't ALL of them, nor can you be all at once.

The artist is the type of teacher that likes to make things (lessons, activities, and classrooms) that students will love. Creating things from scratch and actually liking to "reinvent the wheel" are habits of this teacher. Also, this teacher would probably prefer stories of learning rather than data.

The geek likes systems, structures, research, and data. While this type of teacher likes to make something new, they also would like to use data to determine if it is effective. Sometimes this type is not usually thought of as creative, but as the authors say, "sometimes creativity worlds best within a framework informed by the data we collect on a regular basis." 

The architect does create things but "relies on the collaborative work of other creative types to design something." This teacher brings together the systems and art.

The Engineer is focused on fixing problems. This teacher focuses on how things work and is willing to ignore data and do things differently. Creativity might not be as obvious because this teacher is more practical but this teacher is always searching for a better solution.

The Hacker is the type of teacher that might find subtle ways to subvert the system. This teacher is willing to destruct current systems to find an alternative. This type might also find new ways to use the system and mix together things in a way that hasn't been tried before.

The point guard is able to "think differently in the moment and create opportunities as a result" This teacher can set up opportunities and experiences for students that are creative. Thinking on their feet is a trait of this type and the authors state that it looks effortless, but it isn't "You must be part activist and part chess master."


This chapter reminded me of those "personality quizzes" I used to take in Seventeen Magazine when I was in middle school! I wanted to know "what type" I am just as much as I wanted to know about the types. I found myself identifying with several types. I think I most strongly identify with Engineer and Hacker! I also am curious about how others perceive me and if they see my creativity differently than I do. 

But I think the most powerful part of this chapter was actually the argument that we need all of these types in schools. "When schools embrace all types of creative teachers, we are able to build the kinds of learning environments our students deserve." Also, knowing about the different types can help us appreciate what each other brings to the table in terms of creativity. "When we understand and appreciate the varied approaches to creativity, we are better able to embrace our differences and work in a way that is complementary rather than divisive."

Up next in the #D100bloggerPD book study is my friend, Lauren Slanker. Lauren is a passionate middle school science teacher. I was lucky enough to work with her as a teacher and team leader before moving into my current role. Be sure to check out the post on her blog!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

New School Year, New Opportunities

My professional life has been full of changes. I thought I would take a post to talk about what I've been up to!

Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics

I remember years ago, as a second year teacher, I turned to the ICTM webpage for some ideas for Pi Day. While looking around, I noticed they had awards and thought it would be so amazing to be honored with a teaching award some day. In 2014, I was lucky enough to fulfill that dream. Getting more involved with ICTM by presenting at the annual conference, managing the Facebook page, and then accepting the award made me think about becoming a board member. Again, I thought it would be so amazing to be able to contribute more widely to the math education community and this would be a great way. I am honored that I was elected to serve as Director of grades 5-8 on the Board of Directors.

Recap Pioneer

Another opportunity that I'm excited about is being a Recap Pioneer. I started using this tech tool in my classroom this year and quickly discovered it was a great way to get at student thinking. It is so easy to set up and makes it simple for students to record short videos of themselves answering a question. You can use this as formative assessment to inform your teaching.

I also was invited to contribute to Recap's blog and wrote a post about asking better questions. Check it out! 

District Instructional Coach

Maybe the biggest change for me has been my shift from classroom teacher to K-8 instructional coach. Last year I had several sections of 6th grade math and two release periods to work with teachers as a math coach. I loved the coaching experience, so when a position as an instructional coach opened in my district, I knew I had to apply! To be honest, leaving the classroom, after 12 years, is bittersweet and I still feel like a math teacher at heart. But, I'm embracing this new challenge. It is pushing me out of my comfort zone, which I think is what you need for growth. It's good and it's hard at the same time. I'm looking forward to seeing how my education journey continues!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Blog Highlights

I added a new page at the top of my blog. It's called "Blog Highlights" and it is basically a collection of my favorite and most popular posts. After 3 years of blogging, it was a good time to stop and reflect on common themes I've written about. In addition, the highlights can serve as a peek into my education philosophy.

Check it out and let me know what you think!