avoiding the chaos of piles...


My classroom organization motto is "a place for everything and everything in its place!" And I find it fairly easy to keep up with manipulatives and classroom supplies, but I used to struggle with papers...especially papers I didn't plan on receiving. As day after day of teaching continued, unexpected papers would create a pile of chaos. Typically the only thing that would force me to address the piles was preparation for a substitute. And even then, sometimes I would just scoop the pile from my desk to a cabinet. (Please tell me I'm not the only one who is guilty of that bad habit!) Anyways, last year I created a file crate that eliminated the chaos of piles.
The crate contains laminated file folders (zebra and polka dot, of course!) labeled for everything from absent work to class rosters. Here's a view of my different labels...
This file crate sits on a short bookcase behind my podium. I can easily access a needed file for unexpected papers. If the paper needs addressed by the end of the day, then the file stays on my podium. I sort through files and accomplish necessary tasks after school before returning files to the crate.

So how do you stay organized from day to day?!? Please leave a comment to share your organizational tip! No tip is too small. :)

This post is included in the Middle School Math Sunday Funday collaboration of posts from middle school math teachers!

Next week's topic will be...
classroom management!
Stay tuned for my secret to managing a middle school math classroom.

Have a great week...make it count!


mathchat forum...

Make a prediction. What percent of instructional time is dedicated to answering homework questions from the previous day? Now...time yourself for ten days and report your average. Inquiring minds want to know! :)

This will be my third year to offer my students a private online forum to discuss homework.

Our MathChat forum extends the walls of the classroom beyond the school day. We can still collaborate and coach each other after school hours. The discussion threads are posted in an education wikispace. My students, parents, and administration have logins and passwords to participate in the forum. And I have notifications sent directly to my email when someone posts in the forum...which I manage from my iPhone. The setup does not require the use of student email addresses. Two of the most significant benefits from the implementation of a MathChat forum is that the discussion option reduces anxiety for my students and saves me time in class the next day. It's a win-win for all involved.

How do you address homework issues in your classroom? Please leave a comment to share your tried and true method.

Happy Friday Eve to YOU...make it count!


remembering 9.11

It was the Tuesday before Homecoming at BHS.
I remember the vivid details like it happened yesterday.
My 2nd hour Precal students were taking a trig test.
Every classroom had a TV.
But the TVs weren't functioning yet.
It was our first fall in the new building.
My neighbor had prep that hour.
He came to my window and motioned for me to come to the hall.
The details of a terrorist attack were few and vague at best.
Yet unbelievable.
Since I didn't have much to share, I opted to let my students finish their test before I relayed the breaking news to them.
I still remember the conversation.
Their shock and subsequent questions.
We continued the routine of the day.
Going through the motions.
Though completely distracted.

Spend time today in a spirit of gratitude for those who sacrificed beyond our wildest imaginations...past, present, and future. May our freedom be treasured!

Be intentional today...make it count!


favorite math games...


My students absolutely love to play games in math class! One of my students recently asked, "Do we play a game every single day?" When I told him "with the exception of test days," he decided our class was the coolest algebra class ever. (I didn't declare the obvious...that it was his only algebra class ever. Haha!)

My lesson plans integrate a math game into our MATHercise routine for the purpose of building fluency. I use 1 player games at the beginning of the year, but quickly progress to small group games with 3-6 players as the year continues.

My students' favorite math game is Go Fish! They love it because they get to go again when the make a set. :) I love it because the game improves their mathematical communication skills, and they complete a ton of problems in a short amount of time...great practice!

Click on the Exponental Functions preview above to download a FREE game from my TPT store.

This Go Fish! game allows students to practice matching functions displayed graphically, algebraically, numerically, and verbally. And a Go Fish! game is super easy for teachers to differentiate...just stack the deck strategically! ;)

Currently, I have a tie between my two most popular games available in my TPT store:

Stem-and-Leaf Plots Matching Game
Inequalities Go Fish Game

Check them out and let me know what you think. So what's your "go to" game for the math classroom?!? Any special content requests for the next game I create for my store?!?

This post is included in the Middle School Math Sunday Funday collaboration of posts from middle school math teachers!

Next week's topic will be...
organizational tips and tricks!
I will be sharing my filing system that eliminates the dreaded piles. :)

Have a great week...make it count!



make-a-monster learning styles glyph...

Based on Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences, we know students are smart in many ways. I have one daughter who is word smart and one daughter who is people smart. They couldn't be more different as learners. And in the classroom setting, it is important that we as teachers recognize and meet the needs of the unique and varied learning styles represented by our students.

On the first day of school, my students completed a monster glyph to display their learning styles.

You might notice that I have a lot of blue monsters! Students selected the color of their monster based on their tendency when learning new and difficult concepts. If they tend to jump in and contribute ideas, their monster would be blue. If they tend to sit back and listen first, their monster would be orange. Quite the visual reminder for me as the teacher, huh?!?

Detailed instructions for this Make-a-Monster Glyph Activity are available in my TpT store as a priced prodcut.

So how do you get to know your students and their unique learning styles at the beginning of the year? Leave a comment to share your "go to" activity!

Enjoy your weekend...make it count!



differentiating instruction in algebra...

The strengths of principals vary from building to building and state to state. Yet I'm convinced excellence with every step in regards to instruction is critical to the progress of a community of learners. It is a privelege to work for a principal who makes teaching and learning a primary focus. Wanna spy what she just added to her collection of resources for our building?!?

Differentiating Instruction in Algebra 1 by Kelli Jurek is another great find to help us meet the individual needs of our math students. This book includes activities for the major function families (linear, exponential, and quadratic) included in Algebra 1 curriculum as well as other supporting topics.

What's on your teacher bookcase? Or perhaps...what's in your "teacher books" folder on your iPad?!? Leave a comment to share your latest and greatest find!

Have a good one...make it count!



calendar app...

Middle school tends to be a giant transition for students. With the need for time management and organizational skills, our students encounter a significant learning curve. And with that fact comes the truth that I teach much more than algebra. I want to build better students who will be successful far beyond my classroom.

One way that I support students in learning time management is to provide them with a calendar to reference important dates. I've spent the last three years updating a calendar on a teacher website provided by my school district. With help from my super smart colleague Jared Jones, I created a free app via Mobile Conduit for my algebra students and parents. It's fast and simple and requires no coding!

The app connects to our classroom Google calendar and includes event titles and descriptions with details (and links!). Mobile Conduit automatically generates a QR code to allow users easy download to their mobile device. School has been in session for two weeks and 50% of my students and parents have downloaded this app for their convenience.

A calendar is just one of many options for app creation available at Mobile Conduit. Please leave a comment and share your ideas for other useful apps to help ease the transition for middle school students.

Wishing you a great week...make it count!



homework with purpose...

The homework assigned to my algebra students either prompts students to apply concepts learned in class or investigate upcoming concepts. My goal is to provide a format that enables my students to master the foundational concepts required for future math learning.

Mastery requires focused practice over days or weeks. After only four practice sessions students reach a halfway point to mastery. It takes more than 24 more practice sessions before students reach 80 percent mastery. And this practice must occur over a span of days or weeks, and cannot be rushed (Anderson, 1995; Newell & Rosenbloom, 1981).

Since research shows that students need multiple encounters with the content before they reach mastery of the concepts, I continually integrate prior learning throughout our lessons. The main deposits for revisiting concepts occur in our MATHercise routine, Unit Menus, and spiraled assessments. You can read more about our daily MATHercise bell ringer activity here. It's a great way to continue working on previous concepts while allowing me to work with individual students or small groups. Next, the unit menus provide a structure of choice for enrichment and remediation on previous concepts. You can read more details and view a sample or invest in a book of blackline masters by Laurie Westphal. Finally, each unit assessment in algebra contains one or two competencies of distributed practice from previous units. It helps my students to keep practicing concepts...as we say in class...if you don't use it, you'll lose it!

And to allow feedback on homework outside of the school day, I have organized a wikispace for my students to post homework questions. The settings allow me to receive an email notice when a response is posted. And with the access of email on my iPhone, I'm able to respond quickly. But nothing melts my heart more than when my students start helping each other in our MathChat forum! A similar discussion forum for your class is available through edmodo; however, I prefer the organization of post titles in the wikispace.

This post is part of the Middle School Math Sunday Funday collaboration of posts by middle school math teachers!

Next week's topic will be...Favorite Math Class Games. Let me know if you have a special request.

Have a fabulous weekend...make it count!