Wall Displays

My “Math Wall of Shame”, courteous of Sara VanDerWerf and her great blog, saravanderwerfdotcom. She has all of these images and more available. I’m looking forward to hearing what my kids say (I put it up today after they left) and adding to it throughout the year. shame

I left my bulletin board blank at the start of the year and had my students color inspirational messages from Doodle Art Alley and used them to decorate. bulletin boardhallwayI chose about 30 different messages so I had duplicates for students. I put one of each on the board in the room and the rest I’m displaying in the hallway. The students like seeing their work displayed, and I know I love the flood of positive messages as we go through the hall, and I hope the students do too!


Classroom Management

After a decade of teaching, I now feel like I’ve got a good handle on this aspect of teaching. This aspect that is crucial and unfortunately overlooked in teacher preparatory classes. I learned on the job. Asking for help my first year got me administrator acknowledgment that they really just throw you in without help or guidance and if you swim instead of sink, then you get to keep being a teacher. That was just as helpful as you’d imagine. I attended a day course on dealing with difficult students sometime in my first year or two. And new hires got a copy of “The First Two Weeks”. A book I couldn’t appreciate fully until about year 10.

I was thinking about class management today in the after school program as I watched the college students manage students and reflected on my beginning attempts. Sure some things come with the wisdom of age and experience, but a lot of classroom management can be taught and can save beginning teachers years of headaches. As professional teachers, we should be better at teaching our own. We should be more open, more willing to accept suggestions from others and have more time to observe fellow teachers in action. I’m glad I took up the #ObserveMe challenge and plan to promote that more at my school. We can help each other be better, sooner for the children we teach.

Assessment for learning

I’m working on a longer post about how I’ve been using Google Forms for formative assessment. I am still trying new things (I will probably always be trying new things, but at some point I’ll stop and write the post), and I want to have a few more things to say before I post about it. It’s causing me to think more about the feedback students get, and how to provide that feedback in a way that’s meaningful and has a quick turn-around for me as the instructor. I think students need a lesson on what formative assessment is, they treat each grade as a final, unchangeable thing. And maybe in other classes it is. It isn’t in my class, and I need to convey that to students in a better way. After all, this is 6th grade; the students are only 11, and we’re learning in here!


I really should have done the work I needed to get done tomorrow first, but I thought I would check out one blog post first and a twitter notification. And that led to learning these new things I am adding to my “learn this so I can implement it in my classroom list”.

  • Found this great post about Lesson Closure (one of the areas I need to improve) from Dan Meyers blog and added the new blog to my WordPress followings.
  • Now following @TracyZager and @fractionfantic on Twitter (lots of good things to find on their websites – excited and challenged by what I’ve read so far. I also started following @mathequalslove and @TechedUpTeacher (I have followed the blogs of these last two and was surprised I wasn’t already following their twitter feeds.)
  • Sumaze and Sumaze2 are apps I’m requesting be on every student iPad. (Free and lovely.)
  • Finding this post again about Dividing Fractions from Fawn Nguyen. I saw it early in the summer, but I’m glad to have it pop up again in my trail following as I will be teaching this concept to my sixth-graders in a few weeks.

Thoughts on Early Learning

On Facebook, I saw a link to this post: How Early Academic Training Retards Intellectual Development  by Peter Gray, Ph.D. The discussion from women on the post centered on not sending children to preschool. And it made me think of how I treated the same issue with my own children. And how learning works in the public schools I have had experience with as a parent and as a teacher. My oldest two children didn’t go to preschool and my youngest had to go to day care so I could work. However, I made a point of picking a day care where children played and avoided those that billed themselves as preschools. When my girls were in Kindergarten and 1st grade, I would throw their homework away and have them go outside to play. (They would hide their homework from me and do it at school so their teachers wouldn’t be upset with them!)

My favorite quote from the aricle is the following:

Moreover, when the procedures are learned by rote, especially if the learning is slow, painful, and shame-inducing, as it often is when forced, such learning may interfere with the intellectual development needed for real reading or real math.

I find this to be true in my experience as a teacher, students hate math, becuase math has been taught as an endless set of procedures and it is supremely boring to drill or do most of the sets of problems found in textbooks. One of my first years teaching, I was able to attend a NCTM conference (whatever year it was last in Atlanta). At that conference I attended a session where the instructor asked us to reflect on homework and challenged us to do our own homework before we gave it to students. He suggested that we not assign anything that we couldn’t complete in a fourth of the time we expected it to take our students. Given a 15-20 minute guideline for homework problems, I could only give what I could complete in 4-5 minutes. Consider that you have to start cold (without out knowing the problems before hand) and with the tools you expect the students to use. Do the students get calculators? No? Then the teacher doesn’t either. As the presenter said I would do, I assigned much less homework after implementing this guideline.

My least favorite part of this article, not because I disagree, but because I do agree and it is heartbreaking and frustrating as a teacher.

“In standard schools it is important to learn how to read by the schedule that the school dictates, because if you fail to do so you will be labeled as ‘slow,’ or worse, and may develop a self-image as stupid.  You may fall forever behind.”

We know that there is a range of normal development, but there is no allowance for this range of normal as we advance, label and mark students throughout the school system I am part of. I do several things in my classroom to allow for credit for growth rather than pure achievement, (accept things late without penalty, retakes for assessment, having a summative assessment override formative ones) but no matter what I do, I have to put in a number grade and then all many students (and their parents) is that number and not the efforts and growth of the child behind it.

Things I’m thinking about

  • The positive behavior plan I started today feels promising.
  • I continue to be impressed with how well some of my students roll with change, tech glitches and challenges.
  • The elementary after school students I tutor are a great bunch and I realize that I have a different perspective this year with them than (4 or 5?) years ago when I taught at the after school program before.
  • I’m glad I can just follow 7th-grade’s plan for RTI students as I’m quickly running out of time for things I want/need to do.
  • Quizizz is possibly the most fun assessment tool for students. Almost too fun – it’s so loud when we play – the drama, the cheers – ah, middle-schoolers.

Where does the time go?

Lesson planning and “estimated time”. Estimated time is such a difficult thing sometimes. I thought I’d under planned my lesson today and mentally made a few notes of what to do when students finished early. That wasn’t necessary. What I figured would take 5 minutes, ended up taking 20 for all my learners. So, the discussion opportunities and turning and talking to your table groups that I was expecting to have today will have to wait until tomorrow. I don’t want to feel like I’m rushing through the big idea for tomorrow, so I’ll have to think some more on how to edit the lesson to allow students to see the big idea and connect what we did today with what’s going on tomorrow. This lesson, using GCF with the distributive property is so abstract and difficult for students to get a handle on. I think models are important for understanding, but students are resistant to the models. Thinking…. Working…. I’ll see what I come up with for tomorrow.



Thank Goodness for Fridays

There were a lot of lovely moments today and I feel like some of them will be longer blog posts in the future. But for now, I’m jotting down some of the things I enjoyed about today.

  • Lovely 7th graders who came by again to say hi and to help me in my classroom.
  • Students who stayed on task today even though they initially were stumped by a problem.
  • Those students who voiced encouragement and focus when the group was able to discuss the problem.
  • Students who were forgiving.
  • Students who showed compassion.
  • Students who persevered through problem-solving.
  • Students who advocated for themselves and asked for a tool and when said tool was unavailable, restated their request so that the another option was acceptable. The self-advocacy was really impressive.
  • Teachers who share ideas and offer help.

Everybody makes Mistakes

I set up a Google Forms quiz and it started with a high-level question and was set up to sent students to higher or lower levels based on their answers. Awesome! It worked great and I opened up the results tonight so excited to see how it worked on the back end. Only, in all my toggling and setting up of this and other forms, I missed the box to auto-collect their emails (and their names since they use school email addresses).

Oh, dear. I’ll need to apologize and have my students resubmit. Fortunately, it was a quick assessment 2-4 quick questions and they won’t have to “think” this time, just put in their same answers as today.

I’ll need to apologize and have my students resubmit. Fortunately, it was a quick assessment 2-4 questions and they won’t have to “think” this time, just put in their same answers as today.