Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Kindey or Horseshoe Table- Please comment!

I need feedback from teachers on what your thoughts are regarding a kidney table vs a horseshoe table. I am planning on using part of a stipend I earned to purchase either type of table for small groups.  I pull small groups all the time in my classroom and I think one of these tables would work better than me sitting on the edge of a rectangular table with two students on each side and one on the other end.  My groups can vary from 1- 5 students.

For some background, I teach 7th grade math, so this table would be used for middle school aged kids. Typically when I pull a small group the students come with a pencil and exit slip, otherwise they might be working out problems on a whiteboard.  I use a whiteboard to model problems for them.

Kindey Table
Horseshoe Table

I would appreciate any feedback or suggestions about which table you think would work best and why. I have been doing some online research and people seem split on preference, so bonus if you teach actual middle schoolers (or upper elementary students) because they are much bigger than primary students.  TIA for any feedback!


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Small Group Google Form Request and Spreadsheet


I'm linking up this post up at Head Over Heels for Teaching and her Spark Student Motivation Saturdays, because I got very positive feedback from my students when I let students request small group intervention via a Google Form


I'm home today with a sick boy and am finally blogging about something I did in my class last week that far exceeded my expectations.  I didn't take any photos while doing this and I'm home today so perhaps I will update this post later with more photos, but everything is at school and I'm home today.  The main focus of this post is the Google Form and Spreadsheet I used.  I had a last minute idea, the stars aligned, and when I called my tech coach he had a few minutes available to help turn my idea become reality.

I spend lots of time pulling small groups for mini-lessons or conferring about formative feedback I get via entrance/exit slips.  Last week we had a MATHia day prior to our Chapter 10 Assessment on Triangles.  Students had the option to work on the computer or request extra practice/small group instruction on various concepts being assessed the next day.

With the assistance of the best teach coach ever @chadkafka I created the google form shown below where students could sign up for some extra practice/discussion any concepts they felt they still hadn't mastered.  I created a google shortcut for students to access the google form.  This form seriously took me about 10 minutes to create. If I can do it anyone can.  Really, the creation is a fairly intuitive process. Interested students completed the form and I had instant data on who I would be working with during math class/ Core Plus that day.


If you click to picture below you can see the results of my form.  It was so easy to see everything in one place in Google Drive.  I hid the student name column so I could post this for you to view.  That would be located directly left of the class hour.  I ended up using the purple shading because I had students in 6th hour that were separated and I was not able to sort them by class hour because the sorting feature was being problematic the day I was using this.

Google Form results allowed me to form small groups.
I do like the idea of shading the box (dark purple) once the student has completed a learning station/small group lesson on a concept so I can keep track of who has completed what. There was a lot of different things going on at once based on student request.  I also keep notes in the last column if students worked on this during Core Plus or Class.  I love having this data to refer back to and also to inform parents if students are taking advantage of these added opportunities or not.

This worked so well for me.  I did a post about the three Learning Stations I created last year.  I had students use these to practice independently after I modeled for them how the station worked.  I wrote the answers on a post-it on the back to the center and gave the student the sheet protector with the card in it.  Students really enjoyed using these to review for the assessment.  They checked in with me after completing the station and most were able to solve for a missing angle x using the concepts of either the triangle sum theorem or exterior angle theorem.  I'm posting the photos below because they are saved on my computer from when I created the stations last year.

Each color is a different station

Direction sheet.

Each station had six cards.  I also attached the answer key on the back of the white sheet. The cards were actually on the other side of the sheet protector when I handed them out. 

I also made worksheet that had two different triangle constructions for students to practice.  The constructions have been really challenging for many of my students.  While many have mastered how to construct a triangle using given sides or angles, many still struggle.  If students just wanted more practice they worked on this independently, but many preferred to have me model the construction for them in a small group.  During mini lesson time in workshop I use the SMARTboard compass to construct triangles.  Some students prefer watching me use a real compass to do the construction step by step while they complete their own construction.

The last three concepts, determining congruence in triangle, determining possible side lengths for the third side of a triangle when two are given, and whether three side lengths would form a triangle, were all done in small groups with me using whiteboard examples and lots of discourse.

What I loved about using the Google Form for students to request small group lessons was the ownership it put on the students.  This gave every student access to work on concepts they still felt they needed more work on.  I pull small groups all the time, but usually I use entrance/exit slip data to determine the groups.  This gave students choice and voice in what they still needed/wanted to practice prior to the assessment.

I will definitely be using Google Forms more frequently to get feedback from students.  I would also like to create some entrance/exit slips on a form.  I will be sure to share on the blog anything else I do.  Let me know if you have any questions and I definitely recommend you try making a Google Form yourself.  It's so easy having the data collected on a Google Spreadsheet could not be easier to view!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Currently

I'm linking up with Farley for this month's Currently.  I cannot believe it's April 1st and third quarter ends this Friday.  The school year is flying by so fast.


Listening:  I wake up most days at 5 AM.  I usually have a good hour of peace and quiet to myself (which is very hard to come by in my life).  This is when I read blogs, check twitter, respond to any emails from the night before, look over the lessons I'm teaching that day.  I love having that quiet time every morning to start my day.

Loving:  That Winter seems to have left the building finally.  The last two days it has smelled like Spring, fresh and new.  I think it was a big mistake that we did not go somewhere warm for Spring Break this year.  Lesson learned.

Thinking:  In WI we have something called Educator Effectiveness that involves hours upon hours of time writing goals, and uploading artifacts to proved you are an effective educator.  It came to be because WI got a waiver for NCLB and had to come up with a system of teacher evaluation.  We had to upload 12 different artifacts for Danielson Domains 1 and 4.  I also have been waiting for my informal observation to happen and it FINALLY did yesterday morning. I feel the biggest wait has been lifted off my shoulders and now I can just enjoy working with my students!

Wanting:  To have a strong finish to the school year for both me and my students.  I have seen tremendous growth from so many students and I want them to all continue to learn and finish strong.  They still have so much to learn and I want to continue to help each student achieve his/her potential. In my regular classes we are doing Geometry and Probability & Statistics.  In my Accel class we will be starting the 8th grade curriculum next week, mainly Expressions & Equations and more Geometry. We are teaching three more 8th grade chapters than we did last year!

Needing:  To get active again.  My husband and I started out strong working out over my long Winter break and kind of fell off the workout wagon the last two months.  I love working out before school, but now that my son who is a freshman starts school 10 min earlier everyday (to make up time for our four cold days  in Jan) there is not enough time.  I can however bring my workout gear and go right after school and need to get a routine down for that.

Hours and last day:  My official teacher day is 7:30-3:30, but I am usually at school between 7:00-7:15 and I rarely leave school before 5 PM.  My goal for the rest of the year is to leave school earlier more often.  We'll see how that goes!  Students come into out rooms starting at 7:40 and the end of the day bell rings at 3:15.  Our middle school has the longest student day in the district.  It's annoying having so little prep time before and after school, but I'm used to it.  The students' last day of school is June 11th and they have a half day. The afternoon is for teachers to finish grades and start packing up.  The last teacher day is June 12th for close out procedures.  We always have a cookout for lunch that day as one last hurrah.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Workshop-Rich Tasks (with links)

One of the key components of a successful math workshop is finding rich tasks for the students to dig into during work time.  Having our students engaged in deep math needs to be the focal point of our mind-on math workshop.

During our  Minds on Mathematics Book Study last summer  Chapter 3: Tasks focused on the challenging tasks we use with our students during work time.  If you are a regular follower of my blog you know that we use  Carnegie Learning as our math curriculum, for those of you who are new feel free to check out the link to see what Carnegie is about, and you can click the following link to download a sample of the Student Text.  During workshop Work Time students work in collaborative groups solving rich real-world problems.  Students are required to both construct and interpret mathematical models and explain their reasoning.  While solving problems they make connections between different mathematical concepts.  I feel extremely lucky that I have Carnegie as my curriculum.  It marries perfectly with the workshop model of delivery.

Our student text is divided into two volumes for the year.


I realize that many of you do not have a strong common core aligned curriculum.  I have shared some of my favorite go to resources for rich problems to use in your classroom.  I have only shared free resources below.  Some of these you will have to dig around a bit to find links to tasks you can use in your classroom.

Challenging Tasks
No matter what source you use to find your rich tasks, ask yourself the following questions to make sure your tasks have high cognitive demand.  Does the problem offer all of the following?

  • multiple entry points
  • various possible approaches
  • a need for higher-order thinking
  • opportunities to synthesize, justify, and explain
I am heading off to Wisconsin Dells for a few days of waterparking with the family.  Please feel free to add your favorite FREE resources for rich tasks in the comments and I will add them to my list.



Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Marshmallow Challenge, a Great Team Building Exercise



I am on Spring Break this week and have been going through my Blog Post Drafts.  I came across this empty post that was titled Day4- The Marshmallow Challenge.  On the fourth day with my students this school year I did a team building exercise called "The Marshmallow Challenge" that I had read about on Twitter.  I decided that this would be the perfect activity for team building as we transitioned to math workshop this year in our 7th grade math classes.

Somewhere I took photos of the students working, but I am on my second new iPhone since then and I must not have been using the cloud when I took them.  I will have to ask my husband when he gets home from work today if he can locate those photos.  August/September seems to be missing at the moment.  If I locate the photos I will be sure to add them to this post.

I created this Google Presentation and we used the Workshop format of Opening, MiniLesson, Work Time, and Sharing/Reflection to have the students get used to the structure of what workshop looks like.  The students absolutely loved it!  I cannot even begin to explain how creative they were and how amazed I was how well they worked as teams on Day 4 of school.  Students will still ask me when we can do something fun like The Marshmallow Challenge again.

I figured out how to embed my Google Presentation thanks to a nice tutorial video I found online. Here it is:




I hope this post is helpful to you.  I cannot emphasize enough how well this activity worked with my students.  They really worked on team building while completing one of their favorite activities of the year.  Not a bad way to start the year.  You could use this activity at any time.  If you do please come back and comment on who it went.  I would love to hear about your Marshmallow Challenge.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

How our middle school handles passes

This posts has been in my drafts for several months.  It started last summer when I did this #made4math Monday post on passes I had created.  Through blog comments/twitter conversations people requested that I do a post explaining on all the different types of passes we use at my school.  As you can see from the student planner picture below I took these photos back in November.  This post has been a long time coming, but hopefully it will shed some light on how the middle school I work at handles all the various types of passes needed to keep our halls quiet and safe while keeping track of where students are.

Blue House Passes are used during our last class of the day called Homebase. Homebase is a twenty minute period where students can get help from any teachers.  The passes allow our 120 students (who are in Blue House) to get help from any of the other three core teachers.  Students ask for permission to use a Blue House pass and just grab one out of the green bucket on my desk.



Guidance and Office Passes are for when students are called to either the Guidance Office or the Main Office.  This way I do not have to interrupt my teaching to fill out a gold pass.  The student can just go to the green bucket on my desk and grab the pass.




Gold Passes are used when a teacher needs to send a student somewhere and does not want to use one of the student's planner passes.  I typically use them to send a student to the health room.  We also have one Encore teacher who has some of our students in Homebase at the end of the day.  If one of those students needs to see me for something math related and cannot access the digi pass I give them a gold pass.



Library Passes are used primarily for students to check out books from the Library Media Center during Homebase.  These are stored in the green pass bucket on my desk.

front of pass

back of pass


Planner Passes- Every week students get six passes to use for that week for anything they need.  Students use these passes primarily to go to the restroom, get a drink, or go to their locker.  Students must fill out the date, time out, and destination, and then the teacher signs or initials the pass to make it valid.  When students leave the room they must carry the student planner with them as it is the pass.  Students used to get a certain amount of passes per quarter.  I much prefer for them to get the six passes a week.  Students are supposed to carry their planners to all classes (they don't bring them to lunch).


Close up of the planner passes for the week

Digital Homebase Pass- Students fill out a digital pass if they need to see an Encore teacher during Homebase.  They are expected to fill this out during the class of the teacher they are seeing (so that teacher knows if they have room for the student during Homebase).  Students can use a QR code or link on the classroom desktop computer (if the teacher has one) to fill out the digi pass.  Teachers can see during Homebase where any students are that are normally supposed to be with them.  This has alleviated the need to fill out paper passes and it is nice to be able to refer to the document when checking attendance during Homebase.



I would love to hear about how other schools handle passes.  We have over 700 (I think) students so you can imagine how important it is to keep track of where everyone is.  Let me know if you have any questions.  Our system of passes really seems to work well with minimal interruption to my teaching.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Currently March 2014

I am linking up with Farley for her March Currently.



I am listening to Spongebob not by choice, but by default of waking up after my two youngest boys today.  I slept until 7:20 AM which is sleeping in for me.

I am loving my math workshop delivery model.  I really cannot say enough about how much I am loving it and how well it is going with my students.  I have really had some epiphanies lately about workshop that have made it go more smoothly.  I just want to let all you middle school math teachers know that workshop is not just for elementary.  I feel my students are getting much more targeted instruction to what they need individually.  Small group work time is going so well and I am impressed by my students every day.  I also love pulling small groups to work on targeted skills/concepts.  I need to start doing some math workshop blog posts.  I have so much to share.

When I think about the fact that Spring Break is only two weeks ago I have a hard time believing it.  Our break is ALWAYS the week after Easter except for this year.  I have no idea why our district changed the dates of break, but I am not happy about it at all.  The kids will be getting Spring Fever a month earlier than they should this year and it's going to make for a LONG 4th quarter.

I want Winter to exit the building.  This has been a brutal winter in WI (and most of the US).  We had a record four cold days in January.  Fortunately because of our super long school day with kids we don't have to make up any time.  YAY!  Our HS has to start 10 min early starting this coming Monday to make up the time.  I drop my son (who is a freshman) off most mornings so we will now be leaving at 6:50.  YIKES!

I really need a new blog design.  If you know of anyone reasonable and reliable please let me know.  Every time I find someone who looks promising it seems like they are months out from being able to design.  Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated.  I also need a spa day.  Full on massage, facial, mani, and pedi.  I am really carrying a lot of stress in my neck/shoulders lately.  Teaching is STRESSFUL!

$332.76 is the amount of items I currently have sitting in my Amazon cart.  Most of them are books, a mix of professional and just for fun.  I also have some tea cups for our Keurig.  I will be placing some sort of order today because my youngest wants to order a Webkinz.  I assure you my total won't be $332.67.  Must move some things to saved for later.