Showing posts from March, 2015


Sometimes it is so emotionally rewarding to be a teacher!

Sometimes you smile at a student and they smile back.

Sometimes you say "hi," and they say "hi!" back.

Sometimes you tell a joke and the students laugh.

Sometimes you offer advice and the students listen.

Sometimes you show compassion and a student appreciates it.

Sometimes you give extra help and the student says "thanks!"

Sometimes you plan a special lesson and the students say, "that was fun!"

Sometimes a former student visits and says "wow, you were a great teacher!"

Sometimes you see a student doesn't have an eraser left on his pencil during the quiz and you give him one, and he smiles and looks relieved that you noticed him.*

________ but...  ________

Sometimes it is so emotionally taxing to be a teacher!

Sometimes you smile at a students and they roll their eyes.

Sometimes you say "hi" and they say nothing.

Sometimes you tell a joke and they just stare at you…

8 Ideas for the Last Minutes of Math Class

Nothing was worse than when I first started teaching and would finish a lesson, only to look at the clock and realize I had over 10 minutes left to "entertain" the class in front of me... scary! These days, after teaching for 11 years, I've gotten pretty good at time management. I know how long each activity should take, I make slight adjustments as the class period goes on, and I aim for the students to be busy and engaged up until the last minute.

But there are those rare days when I think clean-up/organizing is going to take a little longer than it actually does and I have 3 or 4 minutes left at the end of class. Now, to a non-teacher, 3 or 4 minutes sounds like it is a short amount of time. But to anyone that has ever been in charge of 28 middle schoolers in a classroom knows, 4 minutes is a l-o-n-g time to have nothing planned.

So, here are a few ideas of what to do if you ever find yourself with ~4 minutes at the end of class:

1. Summary Mash-up
I ask students to t…

Wait, what?!

"Wait, what?!" This was my reaction when I read this problem in the book, "It's Alive." 
I was so upset by the insensitive racial language in the problem. I decided to write the letter (included below). I found the email address for the publisher and sent off my letter. I was pleased to hear back from the editor and publisher within the day (their letters are below as well). Their quick response showed that they understood the magnitude of the problem and I appreciated their action to revise the problem.
This turned out to also be a learning experience for my students as I shared the problem with them, as well as my letter and the two responses. My students had reactions like, "Wow, you got it changed!" and "I didn't realize you could write a letter like that!" I think it was important to share with my students the power of words and why it is important to address injustices when they see it.
While I was happy that the publisher is revi…

Taking Stock: March

I haven't done a post like this since October! It is such a fun format, I thought I would bring it back!

Making: This cute banner for Pi Day!

Cooking: I'm trying to go pretty healthy with food for Natalie. I'm making my own baby food and trying to buy organic, when I can. This blog, Baby Foode, has some great baby food recipes... just because it's healthy doesn't mean it can't be tasty!

Drinking: I'm really into Trader Joe's lately. TJ comes through with boxed red wine. Yep, a box of wine that is surprisingly yummy!

Reading: Nothing. Boo hoo- I have no time to read. I haven't read my book club's books in months! (I still go to book club for the wine, though!)

Wanting: Some time with my friends to hang out and catch up... it's been too long! 

Planning: Natalie's first birthday party (she turns 1 on May 29th, but I'm already thinking about the party!) Look at this cute onsie!

Playing: "Pedals Around the Rose" with my students, if t…

Using SBG with a Traditional Grading System

I started using standards based grading last school year and this year I am continuing to implement it. (you can read more here) While it is starting to catch on with more teachers in my school, we are still using a grade system based on percents (94-100 is an A, 85-93 is a B, etc). I have had to find ways to get creative with how to implement SBG with these constraints. One thing I have to do is use a rubric that is based on 10 instead of 3 or 4, like most SBG systems. Another downside to our traditional system is there is not a great way to give feedback to parents on "learner characteristics," you know, the stuff that isn't specifically math.

I've been trying different ideas. One idea I had was to give a separate report, stapled to the report card, that gives some more information besides the single letter grade printed on the report card. I want parents to see how their child is doing with each of the different standards as well as some feedback on learner charac…

Student Math Blogs: Getting Started

Using blogs as a reflection tool in the classroom can be powerful. I know a few teachers using blogs in ELA classes but nobody using them in math. I thought I would take a few posts to describe my process for using blogs with my middle schoolers in math.

First, the set-up. This part is a little time consuming, but worth it later. So my advice is to take the time needed in the beginning to do these things:

1. Create a class blog
I use blogger and just created a new blog for my class. I actually did two, one for my regular math classes and one for advanced math class (in case I want to assign different posts).  You can check them out here and here.

2. Get students to create the blogs
Next I had students use blogger and create their own math blog. A few tips:
-have students only use their first and last initial when setting up the blog
-pick a uniform format for the blog address. I used first namelast
-Go over privacy things with students. Many might not know …

Standards Based Grading "AH-HA" Moments

At the last district institute day, my colleague and I were asked to speak to our peers about the purpose of grading with standards based grading. I felt a little overwhelmed by this task for two reasons:
1. Grading is very personal, how can I tell people what their purpose should be
2. I didn't want people to be annoyed with me for telling them how to grade!

This standards based grading journey that I'm on has been very interesting and rewarding, but I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that it was my choice to try it. I can understand the reluctance of others to try it if they feel it is something they have to do instead of something they want to try.

So, instead of focusing on what grading purposes should be, we polled some of our peers that are trying SBG this year and asked them what was their "A-HA" moment that they realized that their purpose had changed for the better.

Here are their words, that they so generously shared with us:

Annie (me), Math In the …