Showing posts from December, 2013

2013 Highlights

So much happened this year... both in my "real life" and my teaching life!

1.  I became an aunt for the first time when my sister and brother-in-law had their cute baby girl, Emma.

2.  I decided to switch from teaching 6th grade (which I had done for 6 years) at Heritage Middle School, to teach 8th grade at Freedom Middle School.  I also had to say good-bye to my team, most of whom I had been teaching with for years.

3.  My new school is in the same district, but I still had to pack up 6 years worth of stuff and unpack in a new room.  Plus I had to learn a new school, new teachers, new kids.  Luckily everyone has been friendly and welcoming!

4.  I got married!  (and had to get used to being called Mrs. Forest by my students!)

5.  I convinced my grade level partner to try Standards Based Grading with me... it's been even better than I expected.

6.  My best friend, Jill, moved to Germany.  I miss her!

7.  I presented at the ICTM Conference in Peoria, Illinois.  I really l…

Merry Christmas!


Teaching Programming Using Scratch

I loved using the Scratch "Hour of Code" Activity for my classes.  The students were really engaged and the tutorial walked them through each step.

This week, I wanted to extend the learning for some of my classes, but I was struggling with a lesson to show some more advanced features... but not TOO advanced.

These lessons about creating a simple game were great!  We were able to go through Lessons 1-3 in my 45-minute period.  I shared the link with the students so they could try Lessons 4-5 on their own, if they wanted.  Overall the students were excited to be able to program this simple game.

Teaching Transformations Resources

Here are two online resources that a pretty good at showing how transformations work.

Game for practicing transformations

Reflections (good for showing how things reflect over different lines)

Thing Link

Have you ever heard of Thing Link?  You can tag images and make them interactive.  Then you can share your image.  I used this to share my student's "Hour of Code" projects.  Check it out!

Hour of Code- How it Went

On Monday and Tuesday my students and I participated in the Hour of Code.  I had my students do the "Scratch" activity where they had to make an interactive holiday card.  I think it went great and my students were really engaged in programming their card.  I think it was well worth the two days of class time it took to participate.

Here is my example card (pretty simple) that I showed my students (if you click on it, it should take you to the interactive card):

Tomorrow I plan to show how I was able to share the student's projects.


I went to the grocery store after school yesterday and when I was getting back in the car, I caught the end of a story on NPR.  Today I went online to read the full transcript.  It was a pretty good introduction to the basics of standards based grading.  I'm glad the overall tone of the story was pretty positive and explained how they fit well with the new Common Core State Standards.

Seven Reasons for Standards Based Grading

When I was asked to present about Standards Based Grading to leaders in my school, I used this article from ASCD for inspiration and ideas of what to say.  I think it is easy to understand and makes arguments that can get some reluctant educators on board.

1 + 1 = 3 (How to tell your students that you are pregnant)

Yes... I'm going to have a baby!  I'm about 13 weeks along and so excited.  I've been waiting to tell people at school and my students.  It's been hard to keep the secret, especially when I wasn't feeling that great.  Feeling nauseous on a 3-hour bus ride during a field trip was not fun!

But, this week I was feeling better!  And I was ready to let my secret out of the bag.  The big question was... how do I tell my 8th graders?  I wanted something a little more special than, "Hey kids, I'm preggo."
At first I thought I would do a puzzle where students had to solve problems and then the answers would correspond with letters that would spell out my news.  I still think this is a cute idea, but I heard that one of my student's teachers did this last year.  The other problem is that students I have earlier in the day could spoil the "secret message" for students I have later in the year.
So, instead, I came up with this...
I put this on my ba…

Teaching Transformations using Ms. Pac-Man

I tried this lesson from Robert Kaplinsky's website and it was GREAT!

The lesson comes with some videos to show and questions to ask.  It is a great introduction into transformations.  My 8th graders loved the link to gaming and it is also going to tie in nicely to my upcoming Hour of Code (next week).
One modification I made to the lesson was to give each student a notecard where they could draw Ms. Pac-Man on one side and the reflection on the other.  That way, if they had to "flip" over the notecard to follow along with the video, they know she reflected rather than rotated.
This was a great lesson and I'm glad I found it!

Nix the Tricks

I just read about an eBook called Nix the Tricks on Dan Meyer's Blog.  It's free to download and has some great ideas about little math tricks that we teach to students that end up keeping them from truly understanding the math concepts.

I've hated PEMDAS for a while now for precisely this reason.  How many times have students (or, dare I say, teachers?) thought that you have to multiply BEFORE dividing because "M" comes before "D" in stupid PEMDAS.

Other tricks on the chopping block?  FOIL, cross-multiply and divide etc.  Get ready to rethink and reflect.  This is an important read.  Check it out!

Precise Language

As teachers we must model the behavior we want to see from our students.  This includes using precise mathematical language.

One example of using precise language is avoiding renaming math vocabulary a more "cutesy" name.  For example, I've heard of several ways to explain the distributive property.  For a problem like 2(x + 3), teachers sometimes explain it as 2 has to "jump the fence" or other ways to explain that 2 is multiplied by each term inside the parenthesis.  In fact, when I first started teaching I tried this-- but then when I stopped using "cute" language and started calling things by their correct name, students did too!  In fact, these days, when we are learning the distributive property I make it a point to use the word often in the lesson.  Now I have students saying things like, "don't I have to distribute the 2?"  Yes!

Another time I realized I wasn't using precise language was last year when a math coach visited my…

December Desktop Background

My favorite desktop backgrounds come from a blog called Going Home to Roost.  Check it out and download her December background... I especially love the colors this month!

Adding Integers Game

For the past few years, I've been using a game that I made up to introduce adding integers.  I named the game "Close to Zero" because the object of the game is to be the player with the score the closest to zero.

I have the student play the game for 2 class periods until they get really good at the game (and calculating their score).  In calculating their score, they are learning how to add integers-- how sneaky of me!

I have even had students go home and play this game with their family!  This game is great for grades 6-8.  I have a power point presentation to explain the rules. (click on the link above)