Tuesday, December 29, 2015

My Top Ten Blog Posts from 2015

I hope all of my teacher friends out there are enjoying a very relaxing and rejuvenating vacation.  Today I'm sharing my Top 10 most clicked on posts from 2015.  I also threw in the last one as a bonus because Friday Letters is one of my favorite new things I've implemented this year.  I'm hoping to spend some time over break getting myself back into blogging about all the great things that are going on in my school and classroom this year.
1)  Workshop Wednesday #1: Getting Started    

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Currently December

I'm linking up with Farley for December Currently.

Listening:  I love Girlfriend's Guide to Divorce on Bravo.  Most network shows are wrapping up their winter finales (what's with the change in programming?) so it's nice to have something new to watch other than the million Hallmark and Lifetime Christmas movies I have DVRd.

Loving:  Everything Christmas related.  My husband hit the Yankee Candle outlet the other day and picked up several new Christmas scents.  I'm loving them all.  I also am loving listening the Christmas music on XM radio or Pandora.  I love Andy Williams Christmas station on Pandora.  I listen to it every chance I get.  I can't wait to drive around looking at Christmas lights.  We just need some snow on the ground!

Thinking:  We spent a lot of time getting decorations put up around the house last weekend.  We even got our tree up and it my husband put the lights on it, so now I need to put the bows on it and then we are ready to decorate it with ornaments.

Wanting:  I went the my church's Ladies Christmas Brunch on Sunday.  The pastor spoke about not letting nostalgia overtake the anticipation of the advent season.  Guilty as charged.  I did love the sermon and I'm excited to celebrate advent.

Needing:  To get a few more goodies for St. Nick.  Can't believe he comes Saturday night already.  Where has 2015 gone?

Tree:  We always get a real tree.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Friday Letters-Student Self Reflections

Today's #sunchat on Twitter inspired me to do a blog post explaining my Friday Letters, my students' weekly reflections.

A couple summers ago, post TMC, I remember seeing people tweeting about the idea of Friday Letters.  I think the teacher had her students write her a letter every Friday about different topics.  That is about all I remember, but I have wanted to do that with my students ever since.

Fast forward a year or two and last Spring when I piloted using Google Classroom with my Honors Math 7 class, I had them do Friday Letters for just the last few weeks of schools.  I wanted to try it out on a small scale (and do the Friday Letters digitally on a running google doc) to see how to manage the workflow.

This year I knew I wanted to start the Friday Letters right away and establish it in a meaningful way for student self reflection.  I had not yet chosen my PPG (Professional Practice Goal) at the beginning of the school year when I started Friday Letters, but was very happy to realize they would end up being a key component of my PPG. In WI part of Educator Effectiveness (how we are evaluated as teachers) involved writing a PPG.

I've copied and pasted a portion of my PPG below so you can see how the Friday Letters are used to assess student understanding of math concepts, as well as, to uncover misconceptions.

Identify related Danielson Framework for Teaching domain/component(s):
Educator:       3d Using Assessment in Instruction
Focusing on:  Taking the pulse of the class by monitoring student understanding and using strategies to elicit that information.

Evaluator comments:       

Describe applicable instructional or non-instructional activities:
Using formative data to drive my classroom instruction:
  • Daily warm ups
  • Check ins during collaborative group work time
  • Students self correct homework via google classroom
  • Homework assignment questions/discussions posed by students
  • Exit slips
  • Formative assessments
  • Friday Letters- student self reflection on learning

I will provide individual feedback to students through their Friday letters and pull small groups based on any misconceptions I discover.  Students will use Google Classroom to correct their own assignments.  This allows them to assess their own work. I check in with students every day to make sure assignment are completed and that I answer any question for clarification.  Students may be pulled in small groups or individually based on this formative feedback.  Students are required to fill out a google form if they plan to reassess any standard,  This form requires students to reflect on their study habits and areas of difficulty.  They also decide on when they will reassess and what they need for me before reassessing.

Students write their Friday Letter reflections every Friday.  I usually provide a prompt and they respond to the given prompt in the format of a letter to me.  When I want to comment back to a student I highlight the date of the letter and then comment from there.  This is an easy way to comment back to the entire letter instead of highlighting bits and pieces and responding that way.  I have about 120 students and the commenting back to them is the hardest thing to manage.  I spent over 2 hours commenting back to every student in just one of my four classes.  Students know that I do not comment back every week.  They do love to ask me questions and sometimes my comment will spark a side conversation with them.

As I read through their letters I jot down notes of things I need to clarify or really focus on due to misconceptions that I see.  This may be something I address with all my students, just one class, or I may pull small groups, or even conference with a student individually.  It depends on what I'm seeing in the Friday letters that week.  I'm also really trying to give them ownership of their learning and assessment, by having them self assess understanding and reflect on their own learning.

I've talked about the whys of the Friday Letters, now onto the hows.  I set up a google doc Friday Letter template that I shared with students in Google Classroom.  Each student made a copy of the Friday Letter template and then bookmarked it in their math folder.  That way every week they just go to their math folder and click on the link to their Friday letter.

 This shows you what a student's Friday letter document looks like.  That formatting box at the top always stays.  Every Friday students write the new letter at the top of the doc, right under the Friday letter formatting box.  Students sign their names to each Friday letter, even though you don't see that here.

When I want to comment on a Friday letter I highlight the date of the letter (or the most recent dated letter if I want to give comments about more than one letter).  I type in my comments and they show up to the student as you see below.  Very important...tell students to NOT RESOLVE the comments you make, otherwise you will get an email that the comment was resolved.  I've told my students that if they want to respond to my comment, just add it to their next Friday letter.  The comments stay next to the letter so it won't clutter things up.

Most of the prompts I give students are designed for them to reflect on their learning that week and so I can see where they are at in their understanding of the math concepts. I'm also trying to get them to be more self reflective so they can see the impact of their own actions on their learning.

Some topics we've covered:

  • Introduce yourself to me
  • Tell me what you understand about ratios, rates, and proportions
  • What is the difference between discrete and continuous data?
  • Tell me everything you know about direct variation
  • Give me feedback and suggestions on math workshop: opener, mini lesson, group work time, sharing and reflection, small group lessons/individual conferences
  • How does homework help you learn?
  • How do you prepare for assessments so you are able to demonstrate your understanding of the math content and skills?
I'm really enjoying reading students Friday letters.  Not only am I getting a very clear picture on where students are regarding the math content, but I am finding out what their likes and dislikes are and how they spend their time out of school.  I feel like I am getting to know students much better on a personal level thanks to the Friday Letters.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Currently October 2015

I am linking up with Farley for her October currently.  I'm shocked/not shocked that I haven't blogged since August.  It's pretty typical for me to get caught up in back to school and put my blog on the back burner.

Listening:  My husband woke up and turned on Sports Center.  It's on way too much in this house where I live with 4 guys!

Loving:  I love everything about October, the leaves changing colors, the crisp cold fall air, everything pumpkin related, fall candle scents, I could go on and on!

Thinking:  We have passed the one mark month at school.  Things are going great.  I have wonderful students, but this is a large class.  Last year I had 21 students in Honors math and this year I have 33.  Things are very crowded in my small classroom.  Students are doing awesome with math workshop and we've already had our first summative assessment with great results.  I'm using Google Classroom with all my classes and I completely love it.  So many great things going on at school I need to start blogging about it!

Wanting:  I want to spend more time relaxing and recharging this weekend.  Last weekend was crazy and I think I was only home for about 2 hours until Sunday night at nearly 8 PM.  I went to 3 fall BB games and a LAX game.  With 3 boys playing 3 different sports on 5 different teams this fall my weekends are CRAZY. Basketball will be starting soon for my youngest. Yes, sometimes I do feel like I might lose my mind.  I do love watching football and LAX, but I could most definitely do without the fall BB!

Needing:  I feel like I'm exhausted every single night after school.  I try to leave on time (3:30) but I rarely get out of there before 4:30-5:30.  Thankfully my husband has been cooking dinner or we just might starve.  Many nights I fall asleep while watching TV.  I need to start working out so I have more energy.  Also need to do some menu planning on the weekend.  This week was tough because last weekend was just too busy and I didn't get all my household stuff done.  This Monday I have to afternoon off because I have to take my younger two for their yearly check ups so I should feel less stressed next week.

Boo-tiful:  Fall colors are my favorite.  The leaves have started turning!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Workshop Wednesday #6- Small Group Instruction

Every Wednesday for the remainder of the summer  I will be blogging about the components of math workshop,  how I implement math workshop in my 7th grade classroom, the tools and resources I use, and I will be answering any questions posed by readers.  I have previously written several posts about doing Math Workshop in middle school.

These are the previous three posts I have written in this series:

Workshop Wednesday #1-Getting Started
Workshop Wednesday #2-Opening
Workshop Wednesday #3-Mini-Lesson
Workshop Wednesday #4-Work Time
Workshop Wednesday #5-Sharing and Reflection

Today is the sixth post of the series; Workshop Wednesday #6-"Small Group Lessons". 

Small group lessons are probably one of my favorite things about math workshop.  I also think it's one of the most effective things I do to meet the needs of each individual learner in my classroom.  

I do not have much need to do small group lessons with my Honors Math class, but once in awhile I would pull a few small groups if formative data showed the need for it.

I frequently pull small groups in my regular math classes.  We have a computer program MATHia that our students work on two days a week (on average).  This is the time I will typically pull small groups.  The students who are not working with me in a small group are busy working independently on MATHia.  It works out very well.

I previously blogged about how I did Small Group Lessons during our unit on two-step equations.  I plan my small group lessons based on formative assessment results.  We do Standards Based Grading in my school, so students get a score between 0-4 on anything I grade (which is just formative or summative assessments).  

I will quickly group the formatives based on scores.  Students who receive a 4 need do not need a small group lesson.  Often students who receive a 3 don't really need a small group lesson, they just need to chat with me for a minute or two.  I tend to focus mainly on students who score 0-2 on formatives.  Obviously I need to spend the most time on students who score 0-1 because they have the greatest need for some small group reteaching.

I mix up which groups I start with for small group time, so one day I may start with the students who scored 2 and another time I may start with those who scored 0.  I tend to prefer to start with the higher scores first because those lessons don't take as long the others.  I feel that sometimes if I start with the 0 or 1 I use up all the class time and don't get to everyone.

Each time I do small group lessons this all varies based on the results I get from the formatives and how many small groups I need to have.  My small group lessons are between 1-5 students.  I try to work with groups of 4-5 students most of the time because when you have class sizes of 30 students, it's a more effective use of time.

A couple things that are built into our daily schedule that I really love are Core Plus and Homebase.  Some days I just do not have time in math class to meet with every student that needs small group or one on one intervention.  There is only one of me and 30 of them.  I use Core Plus a lot to pull small groups when I can.  If I run out of time I may have students come back during Homebase for a small group lesson.  I don't need to do that too often because I have a pretty good handle on grouping students effectively and using that Core Plus time.

This blog post explains how I had students request a Small Group Lesson via google form.  I need to do that more often.  I like giving students the chance to request small group instruction when they feel the need for it.

During small groups students either write on their formatives or use whiteboards and dry erase markers.  They love using whiteboards and will usually choose those when given the chance.  We will work through the problems they had trouble with and also do a few other similar problems until they show mastery on the concept.

Small groups are a great way for me to understand their thinking by listening to their reasoning as we work through the problems.  I love to see how students will start explaining to each other how to do the problems once they understand.  I think it's helpful to have students learn from their peers whenever possible.

Feedback from students on my end of the year survey that they really appreciated small group lessons:

What did you like best about this class?

  • Something I like about this class would be the small groups because if we do need help we can fully understand what we were confused
  • I like how Mrs. Nackel gives time for kids who don't understand to get extra time to work with her in small groups or independently.
  • The lessons are easy to understand, and if you don't get something Mrs. Nackel will help you if you need it

What helped you learn in math class this year?
  • The one on one time
  • All of the example that were available such as the small groups or asking questions.
  • The small groups
  • Just that I was in her Math core plus since I struggle in math. 
  • The formatives, because through the formatives I was able to figure out I did not know and what I needed extra help on. 
  • The core plus helped a lot. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Workshop Wednesday #5- Sharing and Reflection

Every Wednesday for the remainder of the summer  I will be blogging about the components of math workshop,  how I implement math workshop in my 7th grade classroom, the tools and resources I use, and I will be answering any questions posed by readers.  I have previously written several posts about doing Math Workshop in middle school.

These are the previous three posts I have written in this series:

Workshop Wednesday #1-Getting Started
Workshop Wednesday #2-Opening
Workshop Wednesday #3-Mini-Lesson
Workshop Wednesday #4-Work Time

Today is the fifth post of the series; Workshop Wednesday #5-"Sharing and Reflection". Two years ago I wrote this post on Sharing and Reflection.  These were the notes I took from that chapter:

Sharing and Reflection:
Students gather as a whole group to discuss solutions and challenges.  Reflections can be verbal or written and offer the teacher an opportunity to formatively assess students in order to plan for the next day's instruction.

This chapter is so important because sharing and reflection is really key to making sure the learning "sticks" for students.  Metacognition gives students a chance to focus on what they learned and synthesize their understanding of the concepts.

The purpose of sharing is for students to think about their own ideas and to evaluate their thinking.  It's important for the teacher not to jump in and take away the student's chance of explaining his thinking.  We need to facilitate the students' sharing of ideas.

Reflection is the learner considering his own growth and progress as a mathematician.  The author gives some great reflection prompts on pages 162-163.  This reflection can be oral or written.  This reflection time is so important for the students to solidify their learning and to be able to justify their thinking to others.  This is such an important component to the workshop model and I can see how it is easy to run out of time when you only have a 60 min period (and some of you less) everyday.  I think I will need to have some sort of system in place to make sure we save enough time at the end of class for sharing and reflection.
Ok so let me give you some honest feedback about Sharing and Reflection in my classroom. It continues to be one of my biggest struggle areas with workshop delivery.  We do not always come back as a large group at the end of class to wrap up our day's learning.  I will say that I always check in with table groups during work time.  So even though we don't always share and reflect as a large group, I do that with individual groups every day.  This year I am really going to work on setting a structure that we close down the last 5ish minutes and ALL share and reflect together.  This means I need to be very purposeful everyday about what the prompt or problem will be that we discuss or write about.  I do a good job of this with my #1st5days lessons that follow the workshop format, but once I start teaching Carnegie lessons I tend to fall off the wagon quickly.

Be sure to stop back next Wednesday when I will be discussing how I do Small Group Instruction as part of my math workshop.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Currently August 2015

I'm linking up with Farley for August Currently.  I'm currently on vacation in Door County, WI or what I affectionately call my "happy place". 

Listening:  We're on vacation and my husband and boys are out playing Pickle Ball and I was just chilling in our resort room and was flipping through the channels and started watching Bones.  Not a show I typically watch and I'm not used to watching regular TV with no fast forward option.  I miss my Direct T.V.  LOL

Loving:  We are having an absolutely wonderful vacation in Door County.  The weather has been gorgeous, sunny and in the 80s every day.  We've been dining out at all our favorite restaurants.  I've been hitting my favorite stores and did some clothes shopping for school.  I also purchased three Christmas gifts.  I always find cute things here and save them for gifts to give later.

Thinking:  I cannot believe it's August already.  The summer is flying by at warp speed as usual.  We need to hire a principal and new U.S. Studies teacher for my team.  Hopefully interviews are going well and they will hire those positions soon as school is starting in a few weeks.

Wanting:  I'm really trying to enjoy every minute of this vacation.  My oldest son is a junior in HS this year and I know our family of five vacations are limited as he gets older, but that's not something I want to dwell on.  I'm taking lots of photo and thanks to Instagram and blogging I will have memories of these precious vacations to cherish forever.

Needing:  I really need to buckle down next week when we get back from vacation and continue on my summer to do list.  I have a lot of cleaning and organizing that needs to be done around the house.  I also need to finish planning out things for back to school.  I won't be able to get into my classroom for a couple of weeks to start setting up my classroom, so I want to get things done around my house.

B2S RAK:  I've picked up a few little things here and there to surprise some friends and coworkers when school begins.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Five for Friday- July 31st

I'm linking up with Doodlebugs Teaching for her Five For Friday link up.

I missed last week's Five for Friday and we've been busy busy soaking up every moment of summer fun we can.  Our former next door neighbors moved to New York in December and they were in for a long weekend visit.  We had so much fun hanging out with them and miss them so much.  Our friends treated the neighbor boys to some jump time at Helium Trampoline Park.  The boys sweated up a storm jumping around and rock climbing.

Rock Climbing

Neighborhood Boys

Every night the big boys slept at one house and the little boys slept at a different house.  We had the big boys on Friday night and the little ones on Sunday.  This is such an awesome group of boys and I'm so glad my boys have the opportunity to grow up in such an amazing neighborhood with great kids and parents (and you can see there are an abundance of boys).  There are four houses right by each other that each have three boys!

Breakfast is served

One of the best things about summer is getting to have leisurely lunches (not 30 min long like during the school year) with girlfriends.  I met my friend Laura at Cafe Lulu recently and my friend Charla at The Horny Goat.  I have been making the most of the gorgeous summer weather (finally) and dining al fresco every chance I get.  I also love getting to have brunch with my husband and boys and went back to The Horny Goat.  Bay View has so many great restaurants and we are indulging this summer.

Cafe Lulu-Bloody Mary with light chaser

Cafe Lulu-Chips and Blue Cheese Dip

The Horny Goat-Strawberry arugula salad with salmon

Horny Goat-Bloody Mary and Triple X mimosa

Horny Goat-Cinnamon rolls

Horny-Goat-Crab cake benedict

We are quickly running out of time to hit all the restaurants we want for the Nackel Boy's Summer Lunch Tour 2015.  I let each of the boys pick two restaurants to have lunch at.  Of course they only picked one that is right near where we live.  It's been hard finding time to hit these restaurants with basketball, football, and lacrosse camps!  #3 was Mitchell's Fish Market in Brookfield.  The boys love their calamari and clam chowder, as well as, their fish and chips and shrimp.

Mitchell's Fish Market

Ben went to Badger State Lacrosse Camp last week.  We've heard nothing but great things about this camp so we signed him up this summer.  He also attended the shooting mini camp.  He roomed with his good friend Shaun and knew lots of friends and teammates from his summer tournament team.  He had an absolute blast.   It was such a fun and worthwhile experience for him, even though I missed him being gone that long.  I don't know what I will do in two years when he leaves for college.  It sort of felt like foreshadowing of that, when we dropped him off.  Didn't I just bring that my baby boy home from the hospital?!  I could not believe how teeny tiny the dorm rooms were.  I don't know how I ever survived living in a room this small for a year (although I think our dorm rooms at Eau Claire were a bit bigger and definitely had better storage!).

Saying Good-byes 

Dorm room for the week

Next week's recap will be all about our Door County vacation we are currently enjoying.  We left a few days ago and stopped at Starbucks to pick up some breakfast.  I seem to always being doing some sort of professional reading on my many road trips.  I recently got this book and LOVE it!  It is geared toward grades 6-8 which is really helpful.  I was not a math major in college (Eled/Spanish double major) so this book is a great resource for me. I started out with the chapter on proportional reasoning because we start the school year studying ratios and proportional relationships.  

Soy peppermint mocha and professional reading for the win

Hope you are all enjoying the lazy days of summer.  Before you know it we'll all be back in school!