Sunday, October 30, 2011

Computer Table Organization

Sharing some photos of my computer table organization.  When I am sitting at my desk my computer table is on my right.  I have to plug my MacBook in every morning to all these cords.  There is a white power cord, a grey cord to the network,  and the white dongle is for the projector, I also have to plug that small black cord in for sound.  There is really no easy way to organize these cords.  I tried to use binder clips on the edge of the table, but my table was too wide for that to work.

All these cords for my computer to hook up to my projector and SMARTBoard
This is a view of the whole table with computer, files, and teacher resource materials.

My organized computer table
The top file holds corrected papers that have been entered into Powerschool (our computer grading program).  The next file below holds empty sheet protectors.  I like to put everything into sheet protectors because like my copies to have no holes punched in them.  Whenever I print something I put it into a sheet protector right away so I know it's a copy master.  The next level holds items that need to be put away into module binders (that's why they are all in sheet protectors), and the bottom holds extra copies of any binder handouts students receive.
File Holders
This organizer holds file folders I need to access regularly.  I keep my phone extension list in the front so I always see it (I turned it around for the photo).  I keep catalogues on the bottom and above that I keep copies of things I have printed off the computer that have not yet been filed or placed in the appropriate binder.
More files
Here is my teacher resource/binder organization.  I only keep the things I am currently using here.  Everything else is on my teacher resource bookshelf.  On the left are my two favorite problem solving books by Ed Zacarro.  I keep a copy of my lesson plan book from last year (it's not in the photo because I was using it) as a resource for planning and pacing.  I also keep the books that I am reading during IRT.  I keep other teacher resource books that go with the current module we are on.
Resource books and Module Binders
My post-it notes and my Lilly Pulitzer notebooks that I carry with me at all times to any meetings I go to.  
Love my Lilly Notebooks and Stickies
A close up of the darling Lilly stickies.  I usually carry these with me too because they are in a nice protected case.
Lilly Stickies
Post-it heaven.  The post-it colors match the color scheme of my classroom.  I am so crazy for color coordination.  :)
I hope you have enjoyed seeing my computer desk organization.  I will have an upcoming post with photos of my teacher desk organization.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Round Robin One-Step Equations

I taught one-step equations to my Accelerated Math class yesterday.  Actually my sub taught it on Monday using my SMARTboard notes.  When I returned yesterday the students complained that the sub did not explain anything, but just posted the notes for them.  I realized that I needed to go back over the notes explaining the importance of the "process" we use when solving simple one-step equations.

Here is and example of my SMARTBoard notes on the steps to solving an equation.  I give more notes and lots of examples, but this is a picture of the slide that shows step by step what to do.  This is actually a page recording, but you get the idea.
After clarifying the notes on this topic I felt that the students needed to do some practice on this in their groups.  I like this activity because all students must participate and even though each student does his/her part individually, they have the knowledge and support of the rest of the group if they get confused or make a mistake.

The way the Round Robin strategy works is that each person has to have a different color writing utensil.  Kids enjoy this because it is usually pencil ONLY in my math class.  Once the kids have each picked out a different color and cleared off their desks I pass out one paper to each group.  The students solve the problem step by step, passing the paper around the table.  Each students completes only his/her step and then passes the paper on to the next person.  The whole group is responsible for making sure each step is correct before the paper gets passed on.  If someone notices an error they need to explain the error to the writer and have the writer fix it before passing it on.  This strategy works best for a multi-step problem like solving equations.  It also is a visual representation of the step by step process.

This group was all boys.  Look how neat those equations are!

Love the pink and green. :)

While the students are working in their table groups on the activity I am circulating around the room and checking their papers.  If I notice an error I point to it and ask the group to figure out what is wrong.  The rule for the round robin is that each person is allowed to only write with their color ink.  Each person does one step of the equation and then passes it to the next person.  The only deviation I did from the set up of my notes is that when checking work (which is a two-step process) I have two different people do that.

A more close up view

It is important to note that once an equation is solved and a new one is started a different person must start the new equation.  That way students do not keep solving the same step over and over.  Notice how Each step is a different color on the worksheet.  That shows how students are solving a different part of the equation on each turn.

A completed equation

Another group's work

The students felt much more confident in solving their equations after completing this group activity. It helped students to catch some of the more common errors that are made when solving their equations.  We are building a strong foundation for solving equations by focusing on practicing the process of how to solve these.  Today in class the students will be completing their graded assignment to show mastery learning.  I will do a follow up post on that.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Lesson Planning

I still write out my lesson plans the good old fashioned way, in my lesson plan book.  I like to do this because it serves as a pacing record for me, from year to year.  Nothing in my lesson plan book is ever etched in stone.  I will spend an extra day reviewing if need be, or if students have mastered a concept and I planned a day of review I will skip that.  I always find it is better to have too much prepared, than not enough.  If you have an extra 5-10 minutes at the end of class where everyone is finished with homework, I like to use that time for an educational game or to wrap up the learning concept for the day.

My lesson plans for this week.  YAY for having Friday off!  Thursday is an inservice day full of meetings.  :(
Accelerated Math Plans

Close Up

Regular Math Lesson Plans

Close Up

This is just a quick peek into what my lesson plan book looks like and how I structure my math lessons.  I hope you are all having a nice weekend.  We have had a gorgeous fall weekend here in WI.  I spent yesterday watching three football games in the morning, had the best burger for lunch at a new local restaurant,  spent way too much money at Sam's Club as always, and then took a several hour nap.  The nap was pure bliss!  Last night I caught up on my DVRd episodes of Revenge after dinner.

Today I ended up skipping church so I could go into school and work in my classroom.  I did not accomplish everything I hoped to, but that always seems to be the case for me.  I am teaching One-step equations to my accelerated students this week and subtracting integers with my regular students.  We only have three days with students and then Thursday is a full day of teacher inservice.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

It's personal-Cooper's curls

This is my baby whom I love with all my heart and soul.  He turned six on September 9th and is in full day kindergarten.  This boy was born practically bald, and then after age one started to grow the most gorgeous curly hair.  We are talking ringlet curls. 

Cooper's first haircut ever.  I scanned a wallet so sorry for the quality and spots on the photo.
As the years have gone by so have Cooper's curls.  It makes me sad sometimes I could just cry!
Four years later and all the curls are gone. I think I captured the this photo mid wink.  
Good thing he is beyond adorable with or without curls.  What would I do without boy #3.  I cannot even imagine.  :_

Human Coordinate Graphing

Yesterday I introduced coordinate graphing to my regular math classes.  They learn coordinate graphing in sixth grade, so they come to 7th with a pretty good grasp of the concept.  There are some students, however, that struggle with remember which is the x or y coordinate, and sometimes forget whether to go up or down or right or left for + and -.

I am very fortunate that my classroom is right next to an exit door that is used for fire drills.  I am able to take my class outside at a moment's notice to do things like walk through the steps of human coordinate graphing.

For the x coordinate students walk right for positive and left for negative.  For the y coordinate they move forward (up) for positive and backward (down) for negative.  The whole class moves together and counts aloud as they move.  I make sure we throw in some zero coordinates so they realize that zero means they do not move.  

By sixth hour (my last class) the students were a little more wound up so I actually allowed some of the boys to leapfrog their coordinates.  They loved that!

I really feel this hands feet on activity helps struggling students to get a better grasp of this concept.  All the kids love going outside and moving around while doing math.  I always tell my students that my math class  is not a spectator sport, but full contact learning.  :)

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Hi teacher friends!  I know it seems I have disappeared off the face of the Earth (or at least the blogosphere), but I am alive and well and busier than ever.  With all the committee work I am doing at my middle school and as part of the district K-12 math review, and my leadership role as middle school math liaison, to put it mildly I am SWAMPED!

I am having a wonderful school year and have really great students, but homework completion and organization is more of a challenge for this class than in past years.  My new AP is awesome and everyone really seems to like him.  I have two new teachers on my team this year so it has really changed the dynamic of my teaching team, mostly for the positive.  There are some issues that need to be resolved, but enough about that.

I received an email the other day from a first year ESL teacher in NYC.  She is feeling overwhelmed and  asked for suggestions to help get organized.  I responded to her with some tips for keeping papers and paperwork organized.

I will be sharing some of those tips in this and future blog posts.  Hope you find this helpful.

Today I will be sharing how I organize the handouts that I give to students.  In my case this would include: note sheets, labsheets, practice worksheets, and any other handouts that students use in class.  Each Module (which is another word for chapter) of our math text is divided into sections, and each sections is divided into two or three explorations.  I color code all handouts by section with the following colors:  section one is yellow, two is green, three is blue, four is pink, five is goldenrod (only a couple modules have more than four sections), and six is purple.

I use my paper sorter to organize the papers I will be handing out to students.  This year, due to how busy I am, I have had a really hard getting all my copies made as far in advance as I am used to.  You get the idea though, from the photo of how I organize the papers.  The second last column on the right is holding manipulative packets for learning stations (the white papers).  I use the last column to organize random papers that I use regularly (or my students do), there is a section for plain white copy paper, looseleaf, and scrap paper (all for student use).  I also have have some fun bright colors for special copies I make.  We do all of our own copying and that is why you see the paper reams in the bottom row.  All the copies I had out to students that go in their binders are copied on special three-hole punched paper.  Any copies that do not go in their binders are copied on regular colored paper.  The kids love getting the prepunched colored paper because it helps to keep their math binders nice and organized.  Visually they can easily find a paper by looking in the correct section of their binder.

My vertical file cabinets hold my paper sorters for copies of student handouts
Now the question of what to do with any extra paper copies is an important one.  You don't want piles of random papers cluttering up your desk and within a couple of days your desk can suddenly look like a recycling basket, instead of a desk.  The method that I use is to have a file folder for each section of that module.  Any extra copies get grouped together and then separated with a colored piece of paper.
These file folders hold extra copies of student handouts after we are done with them
Another great thing about this method is that I keep the folders from year to year, if something gets changed the next year I will just transfer the old out of date papers to my scrap paper file.  Don't you just love it when a student comes and asks for a week's worth of homework because they are going on vacation?  This happens frequently in my district.  What I do in this case is pull out my lesson plan book from the previous year, got to my extra copies files and pull out any needed papers.  I always emphasize to students that we may do something different than what I give them, but usually it ends up being pretty close to what we do.  No last minute running around making extra copies for that students.
Each module is divided by section

How often do students lose copies of something, or maybe they do something wrong on their paper and prefer to start over with a clean copy?  This happens to me and it is so nice to just go to the file and grab what whatever copy the student needs.  Do you ever have a colleague looking for an extra copy of something?  Again just grab it from the appropriate file.  My students marvel at how organized I am when I can always find any copy they need at a moment's notice.  The whole color coding method is what makes this so quick.  If they need a worksheet from Module 1, Section three I immediately know I am looking for a blue sheet.

If I find random copies of sheets I can always tell by color what section they belong to (as can students). This is a KEY factor in our organization.  We do computer grading on PowerSchool and I even put the color of worksheets in the comments section.  That way if a student is missing Wksht 1-72 and it says (yellow) in the comments, they know that they are looking for a sheet from the section of yellow papers in his/her binder.  Then they don't come to me, asking what color it was (as they can see on PowerSchool).

These are papers for sections 1-3.  

Sections 4-5 papers as well as manipulative packets for learning stations

Keeping paperwork organized is one of the biggest challenges teaching middle school.  I teach four different math classes, as well as Core Plus so I shuffle a ridiculous amount of papers.  We try to go paperless whenever possible, but students need labsheets, note sheets, and some worksheets.  It is very important to keep those papers organized for yourself, as well, as to be a good role model for your students.  It's hard to expect students to be organized if you your own paperwork and desk are in constant disarray.