papers, papers, and more papers

How do middle school teachers manage student work? Some days keeping up with student work feels like the neverending battle of picking up pool toys in the summertime!

I collect homework from the center of our team tables. This allows me to immediately address missing assignments. (Our school has a Stop Late and Incomplete Papers "SLIP" policy that encourages all work to be completed in a timely manner.) Also I can avoid the no name assignment trap!

Once papers are graded, I keep them in a folder to be returned during the next class. If a student is absent, then I place any returned assignments or quizzes in the trays shown above. This stack of trays is centrally located so students can check for papers after an absence.

I would love for you to share the paper tracking system used in your classroom. I'm always looking for ways to be more organized. :)

Hope your week is off to a great start...make it count!



classroom attention signal

My math classroom is bustling with activity from day to day. My students work cooperatively in teams of four students. And this combination requires an attention signal that will bring my students back to me for announcements, helpful hints, etc.

I raise my hand and say, "Freeze, please. Stop. Look. And listen." This attention signal gives my students 5 seconds to freeze their conversations and listen closely for directions.

Some cues are visual; other attention getters are verbal. What do you use in your classroom?

Have a great week...make it count!



students coaching students in the classroom

Math is a subject that calls its participants to a need for accuracy. What are the options when students make mistakes while reasoning mathematically?

Well...if your students are working independently, then the teacher will have a steady journey around the classroom. A journey that involves reteaching and giving the same friendly reminders repeatedly. But there is another option...and one that I definitely prefer! Your students could be working cooperatively and the teacher makes a steady journey around the classroom to observe progress.

From the very first day of school, I train my students to coach either other. The coaching process begins when a math buddy has a question. Students are encouraged to provide one tip to the student...something that will help redirect the learning. If that tip doesn't resolve the issue, then the student is encouraged to provide an additional tip. If the second tip still doesn't resolve the issue, then the student can tell his/her math buddy where and why the mistake occurred and verbalize the accurate solution. However, the math buddy with a question is not "off the hook" because he/she is required to redo the problem.

Yes, there are still questions that I answer while wandering from team to team. But the quantity is significantly reduced. And the best part of the process is that I'm not the only one talking math!

What else do you train your students to do from the very beginning of school?!? I would love to hear your tips and tricks!

Happy Sunday to YOU...make it count!



my new best friend #CommonCore

My last day of school was Monday. It was bittersweet for me because my oldest daughter is leaving my building and starting high school in the fall. I have absolutely no idea how that happened so quickly! I know she will be wildly successful. And I also know I will miss her terribly!

Tuesday was filled long "to do" lists. Our department scrambled to get things organized for the fall. And our building work day ended with a luncheon. We said our farewells, enjoyed salads from Chili's, and finished evaluations.

And then my Algebra PLC buddy and I headed to her classroom. We joined another pair of teachers from the junior high across town. My new best friend?!? Common Core State Standards. Who else is with me? Are you spending time this summer working with CCSS? Math, literacy, or both?

We have worked 3.5 days and accomplished these details: Organized standards into units, created a sequence, outlined competencies per unit with aligned standards, and created a pacing guide for the year. Today we were able to dive into our first unit and determine the details for the questions we want on our assessment. And that's where we stopped this afternoon. We're hoping to pick up speed during the assessment writing process. Any helpful hints?!?

I'm super excited for a long holiday weekend!
Enjoy...make it count!



gearing up for summer training

One of the most intelligent teachers I know mentioned how his non-teacher friends comment about the vacation he gets to enjoy every summer as a teacher. His reply is so very true..."so I've heard, but I'm still waiting for one of those!"

I've never experienced a summer without multiple trainings. And I wouldn't wish for anything else! Instead of summertime as a "winding down" movement, my summer has more of a "gearing up" theme. I look forward to brainstorming and planning with my teammates...especially when we can do that poolside. :-)

I was able to spend Thursday at the state Capitol reviewing fourth year math course offerings. I always welcome work related to Common Core standards because it pushes me to deeper understanding. And tomorrow I will join my teammates at the UofA for our second session on partnering with the engineering college to improve our STEM instruction. I will also spend three weeks in July with these same groups.

I'm looking forward to all my "summer vacation" has to offer! What's on deck for your summer vacation?!? Do share!

Have a great weekend...make it count!



response to intervention

How do you provide Tier 1 intervention in your classroom? What is the basis for providing such intervention? And how does your school respond to intervention beyond the classroom? What do you find to be the #1 key to success?

Last week I was given a unique opportunity to observe an elementary building finalize their RTI recommendations for next year. One grade level at a time met with the administration and support specialists to discuss the students in their grade that were of greatest concern. To say my experience was eye-opening would be an understatement!

First of all, every single teacher was invested in the discussion. When one teacher discussed a need for her student, the other teachers were quick to offer suggestions and support. The entire team had one focus...success for all students.

My second realization was the difference between elementary and secondary in that the elementary building has access to specialists (ELL, reading, literacty, math, etc.) and my junior high building only has a part-time reading specialist. As a junior high math teacher, I have to be the specialist for every one of my students.

The first line of defense is within my classroom. And I wholeheartedly believe that the #1 key to success is differentiated lessons that dedicate time to respond to students who need additional support. Our elementary friends do a fabulous job of managing this task in their classrooms. It's time for us secondary teachers to follow in their footsteps.

And then what happens when the student needs to move to Tier 2? What do your schools do to offer additional support to students outside of the classroom? Add RTI to my summer brainstorm list...

Have a great week...make it count!



the heart and soul of a teacher

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week to YOU!
Q: So what do you think melts a teacher's heart?
  • a sweet compliment from a student, parent, or colleague
  • a lunch that doesn't require standing in the microwave line in the lounge
  • time provided for effective staff development that directly impacts student learning
  • new tools for their classroom
A: ALL of the above! :)
My school celebrated this festive teacher holiday last week. We started with student notes organized by our Student Council. I treasure every tiny slip of purple paper with comments from my students. And I can't even begin to describe the amazing event our PTO showcased. Not one...but TWO catered lunches! A day of chocolate desserts...name a teacher who doesn't love chocolate?!? A "You're a Rock Star!" cupcake with a $5 Sonic gift card. Plus a gift bag of fun stuff for each and every teacher. Oh...and did I mention the random drawings for gift cards on the daily announcements? Drawings. Plural. As in 8 drawings each day! I know. They spoil us rotten!

In the midst of the fun, I was able to attend an excellent staff development from ExploreLearning. Karen Lyons came in from New Jersey to get us organized. I'm so thankful for her and the expertise she shared. I learned much as I realized I have not been using this tool to its fullest potential. The interactive simulations they offer will be the perfect complement to my LTF lessons! And by the gracious grant gift from my school district I will not be standing in line to reserve the computer lab to make this a reality. My students will be enrolled in my 1:1 technology classroom for the next school year.

The blessings abound and the fun continues in these final days of our school year. So it's official...this teacher's heart is melting!

I hope you have a fabulous week and feel appreciated for all the awesome work you do with students day after day. Make it count!



teacher appreciation jackpot

I am super excited to participate in the first Teacher Appreciation Jackpot! Sunday, May 6th is sure to be your lucky day! The Jackpot is an amazing "blog hop" event involving over 130 bloggers!

We wanted to show our appreciation for you in a BIG way, so we're all going to give away one of our TeachersPayTeachers products for free on that day! Each free gift will be valued between $3 and $8, so the total jackpot amount is estimated to be over $500! We'll post the actual amount on Saturday, May 5th.

Because so many bloggers are participating, this event will be divided into three grade level groups. Each of those smaller events is being coordinated by one blogger as shown below:

I have selected my customer favorite as a freebie for one day only. Be sure to click on the image below to download this lesson bundle for free.
{ETA: The Teacher Appreciation Jackpot has ended. Thanks so much to everyone who joined in on the fun! Be sure to continue shopping through Tuesday, May 8th for sale items.}

Scroll to the end of this blog post to spy the fabulous grades 7-12 participants.
Remember to hop over to my TeachersPayTeachers store and shop because TeachersPayTeachers is throwing a huge "TpT Loves You" Teacher Appreciation Week Sale for three days. TpT is offering ten percent off when you use the promo code TAD12 and all of my math games will be an additional fifteen percent off.

Thanks so much for all you do!
We appreciate your commitment to your students and your dedication as an educator!