First Day Revisited

Wow! What a week?! I took care of all my teachers and didn't get much time to take care of myself this week. I finally sat down and really planned out my first day of school. I had a plan that I blogged about here, but that has changed a bit due to some required info that must be disseminated in each period. It's the school plan for addressing the student handbook, because we all know that it doesn't actually get read. So, each period is assigned a different part of the handbook to review with students. I thought having pages 8-11 would be no big deal, but it's actually quite a bit of information. I don't want to just read it or have my students read it, so of course, I had to come up with something a bit more interesting. Thanks, Trista for mentioning a jigsaw! The beginning of the lesson was modeled after a post by Daniel Schneider. His first day plan is so thorough and well thought-out. Okay, so here's the plan:

  • Line up by birthdays
  • Answer math question correctly to grab a partner and pick your seat. (integer questions since that will be our first lesson)
  • Seats assigned, now let's practice how you'll enter the classroom.
  • Warm-up, page 11 of handbook - highlight any phrase you think is important & underline any phrase you have a question about
  • Handbook Jigsaw - each group assigned a page to highlight & underline as modeled in the warm-up
  • "Pay attention, there's going to be a quiz afterwards."
  • Students share highlights and underlines for whole class
  • "My Life in Numbers" Quiz, followed by Prezi with answers.
  • "Student Life in Numbers" - 5 numbers important to students and why. 1-2 paragraphs. HW if not completed in class.
  • Procedure for exiting classroom.

The "Student Life in Numbers" will flow into the next day as their paper blog post. Day 2 plan:

  • Warm-up - Highlight & underline syllabus
  • Syllabus acknowledgment placed in HW folder and due tomorrow
  • "What is a Blog?" discussion & video
  • Complete paper blog post using "Student Life in Numbers" assignment
  • Discuss & show examples of good commenting vs. bad commenting
  • Post-it note commenting activity
  • Lockdown Procedures (I know that doesn't flow, but required by school)

So, that's a rough outline. Here's a copy of my SMART Notebook files (and pdf) for both days...
Day 1 - Mrs. Howard.notebook
Download File

Day 1 - Mrs. Howard.pdf
Download File

Day 2 - Mrs. Howard.notebook
Download File

Day 2 - Mrs. Howard.pdf
Download File

I feel good about it. Afraid I may have too much on day one, so it may change within the next 24 hours, but I feel good about the plan. I really hope to have a good experience with the paper blogging. It feels a bit rushed, but I have to start curriculum on day three. I'll be sure to share the results!

VistaPrint BONUS Card

So excited about this idea I borrowed from Mr. R over at Solve & Simplify. This business card can easily be issued to any student for any type of bonus i.e. extra credit points, restroom pass, choose your seat, etc.

I was given an idea at training today to give each student two restroom passes per grading period. Any restroom passes not used at the end of the grading period are good for 5 bonus points! I think I'll just use these since I'll have 250!

Calendar Math

I have always liked the ideo of calendar math and the way it is used in elementary classes. Many of the ideas that I've found for calendar math have been targeted towards elementary math skills.

On Pinterest, I ran across a link for Calendar Math for the Upper Gradesby Nasreen Wahid and I am so glad I did! he file is two pages, but I plan to shrink it to fit one page. It reviews concepts such as word form, expanded form, basic operations, fraction-decimal-percent conversions, prime/composite, greater than/less than, factoring, central tendency, area, and perimeter! And there is no need to create numbers for the problems because they all come from the date and the day in school!It could be great as a daily or weekly warm-up activity! 

Head over to TeachersPayTeachers for this great file, currently on sale for $2!

Love-Hate for Interactive Notebooks

Where to start? I think notebooking is an issue that I over-contemplate and change every year. I was only introduced to interactive notebooking two years ago. I did notebooks for a full school year and then only the first semester of the following year. It's not that I don't like notebooking, my biggest dilemma is the supplies and time needed to do it well. I know that I can cut back on time required byt prepping materials in advance i.e. cutting items down to size, shrinking docs, etc. The materials is what I've had to think about the most.

This past school year, I tried supply boxes on each group of desks. Of course, this picture is from before any students stepped foot in my classroom, and this did not last. Students did not take care of supplies and the boxes were trashed and a mess in no time.


Recently, while visiting my new school, I saw an awesome idea and I wish I'd taken a picture so that I could share it with you. The picture to the right is fromMissCalcul8's blog, which is one of my recent favorites. She decided to hang supply bags from each student desk.

So, imagine a zipper pouch...
upside down
zipped tied to the desk
and the zipper pouch holds the needed supplies.

Hope your imagination and my description brought the same picture to mind that I have in my mind. If not, I'm sorry for my poor description. Anyway, I think I may try something along these lines for supplies. The only thing is that I'll be floating, so it's not my classroom to make this call, and I may just keep supply bags that students pick up at the beginning of each class period.

In addition to the supplies, I've also debated over using spirals again or transitioning to composition notebooks. I initially chose spirals because of more space on a single page and trying to limit my notes to one page.
I have seen some awesome notebooking via Pinterest. So many show how composition notebooks work and how to accommodate more room. I imagine composition notebooks are more durable. It didn't take long for some of my students' notebooks to have no cover when we used spirals. (Click on any of the pics or captions for larger images or sources.)
So, on to the actual notebooking...ideally, the left side is for output (student info being processed) and the right side page is for input (teacher-given notes, direct instruction, etc.). This is another area where I have struggled...the left side page. Recently, I've seen some different ideas from Megan Hayes-Golding. She offers some good ideas like highlighting meaningful selected classwork or homework problems, graphic organizers, mid maps, foldables, daily warm-up, and using using Bloom's Question Starters to create questions they circle back and answer later. Head over to her blog for more information. (I'm sure you'll fall in love with her blog as quickly as I did.)

Also, Sarah of Math=Love is working bulletin board of left hand page ideas. You can see her progress here!

A new idea I've seen is how some teachers do vocabulary in their interactive notebooks and I definitely plan to adopt this or something similar.

Sarah of Math=Love offers a free download of her 6 to a page frayer model!

Now that I've discussed my struggles, let me just tell you that I love the concept. I love everything being in one location. I love having a place to keep foldables where they will stay put and are available to use for reference. I love when students keep an accurate table of contents and I see them referring to it to answer a problem. I love how students will take pride of the notebook when it's personalized and has so much needed information. I love how easy it is to give a notebook check by just asking question referring to specific pages. I love interactive notebooks. I hope to work out the logistics so that they're not as much of a pain for me this year.
Are you looking for more posts from middle school math teachers
about notebooking? If so, check out #msSunFun...

New {School} Year Resolutions

I'm linking up with Amanda from Teaching Maddenness for her New {School} Year Resolutions!
This school year, I hope to:

#1 - Build better relationships with my students and other teachers. I want to put the kids first, grades second. I think this includes being fair and consistent with students when it comes to consequences for undesired behaviors. I am also moving into a leadership role and understand that relationships with my teachers is imperative to our working .environment.

#2 - Encourage writing in math thru blogging and providing more opportunities to write during class.
I think I should include here to keep my class blog updated and current with the learning happing in our classroom as an example for students.

#3 - Find Balance! I have tendencies of a work-a-holic. I'm known for staying at school until 6 in the evening. I need to find a balance between work and home. Maybe I'll set a time to unplug because I can work or just surf the interent for hours until it's time to go to sleep. I think I'll unplug by 8!

That's it! I can think of lots of other things, but I don't usually make resolutions since I'm notorious for not stinking to them. I figure I'll stop myself with three, in hopes that less is more! Do you want to see what other teacher's are resolving this school year? Or do you want to join the linky party? It's easy...just write a blog post of your new {school} year resolutions and click the button to join the linky party!

I'm a Fiverr Fan!

So, I was inspired by Paul Anderson of Bozeman Science to try and make a quick intro clip for my flipped classroom videos. So, I google led me to some tutorials, but needless to say, they didn't work for me. Fortunately, I stumbled upon, where people are willing to do some awesome things for only five dollars. I'll let you browse Fiverr for the wide range of services you can purchase, but I am so excited to share my $5 project!
...and I couldn't resist an outro as well!
$10 well spent!

Switching Gears

Looks like I may be teaching 8th grade instead of 7th this year. Luckily, I taught 7th grade Pre-AP last year, which is the 8th grade TEKS, so I;m familiar with the content. I had done quite a bit of work on my class blog that will have to change, and I had started recording videos based on 7th grade TEKS. Flip side is that most of my videos from last year were based on 8th grade TEKS, so that means I'll be able to use those videos again this year. Yay!

Of course, 7th grade is a comfort zone for me, but I have to do what's best for the team!

Musical Transitions

A recent pin on pinterest encouraged me to start looking for some current music. Since I don't listen to the radio much, this is a bit of a challenge for me. I know I can use classic songs, but I imagine the kids would enjoy the transitions so much more if the sonds were current ones that they liked.
Okay, I'm getting ahead of myself. The post led to Classroom Alarm Clock by Rick Morris. The post talks about the advantages using a short song as a cue to indicate that it's time for a certain procedure or transition. The page also walks you through how to set the songs to an alarm clock on your PC or Mac, so that they play automatically. CHeck out the website for the research and more details.

So, as I consider the idea of musical transitons and timers, I'm trying to compile a list of songs I may use in the classroom.

Start Class
Let's Go - Calvin Harris (ft. Ne-Yo)
Ambition - Wale
Tardy for the Party - Kim Zolclak
Mission Impossible Theme Song
Let's Get it Started - Black Eyed Peas

End of Warm-up
All We do is Win - DJ Khalid
Jeopardy Theme Song

End of Class
Deuces - Chris Brown
Glad You Came - The Wanted


I've done a little research on blogging in the classroom. I have decided to emphasize writing in my math classroom more this year, and blogging seems to be a great medium for that as opposed to pencil and paper journals. What truly makes blogging worthwhile is an audience and their comments. So, how do we get that audience? Quadblogging is a great solution!
In short, class blogs are put into a quad made up of four classes. During week one, class 1 is the focus and the quad all visit and comment on class 1's blog throughout the week. During week 2, class 2 is the focus and the quad all visit and comment on class 2's blog throughout the week. So, over the course of four weeks, each blog is the focus for one week. Classes who have participated in quadblogging say that students take much more pride in their work after the first experience and step up their performance for their next quadblogging experience all because they know they are going to have a large audience.

There are a few place to get plugged in with a quad. The one that stood out to me was, which you can also find on twitter, @quadblogging. I'm even thinking that you can set up quads of individual students within your class, so that different students are commenting on the individual student blogs.

I'm excited about stumbling across the idea of quadblogging and look forward to using the concept in my math class this year.

Here is a link to my classroom blog, We Speak Math!

First Day of School Plan for 2012

I always seem to end one school year thinking about what I'm going to do differently the following school year. During the 2011-2012 school year, my partner in crime, Trista stumbled upon the idea of the flipped classroom concept and we ran with it! We had great successes and great opportunities for improvement as well. For those of you who don't know what the flipped classroom is, you can find lots of information here. In a nutshell, a flipped classroom teaching technique for math is one where the primary purpose of the out-of-class time is for the student to learn the content through instructional videos and other resources, and the primary purpose of the classroom time is for students to solve problems alone or collaboratively, share projects and artifacts, and to receive personalized coaching from the professional teacher.

Okay, so, at first, all of my planning for next school year was in reference to my flipped classroom. Well, God has blessed me with a new position at a new school, where I'll only be teaching one class of students and the rest of my day is more of the math department chair and instructional coach. I will be responsible for providing weekly job-embedded professional development, follow-up with teachers to help execute strategies taught in professional development, and formal evaluations of teachers. The official title is Math Master Teacher, and the position is funded through the Teacher Advancement Program.

So, at my new school, I don't know the student population as well, but I know that the demographics are almost the polar opposite of my last school. Now, I do not assume that means my students will not have access to internet outside of school, but I know there will be many more without access than the school I am moving from where the flipped classroom worked so well. Anyway, I had contingencies for students without interent access i.e. dvd with videos for the unit, transferring videos to flash drives and iPods, etc. Okay... I'm rambling, basically I'm still working on videos, but I'm not going in day one assuming that I'll be using a flipped classroom model, but will survey my students first. to the point and the title of this post, I have developed a plan for my first day of school, which I am extremely excited about. (My 'flipping' partner, Trista helped be refine the plan while we were in Chicago for the Flipped Classroom Conference.) I am so tired of going through all my procedures and rules on day one. They mean nothing if they are not being practiced, so instead, I will review and teach procedures as they come up in our class time. So, here's the run-down of day one:

  1. Procedure for entering the classroom
  2. My Life in Numbers Quiz
  3. Student Life in Numbers
  4. Begin Paper Blogging Activity
  5. Procedure for leaving the classroom

That's it! Woohoo!!!! Okay, so #1 and #5 don't really need explanation. Here's more about #2, #3, and #4.

My Life in Numbers Quiz - This idea comes from Mrs. C by the Numbers. Basically, this teacher starts day one by telling students to clear their desk for a quiz. It's 10 questions and it's matching, so hopefully, students will do well. Quizzes are passed out face down and students are not to turn them over unitl instructed to do so. Turns out the quiz is all numbers related to an event of fact about the teacher's life. It's basically a a get to know your teacher activity. Here is my 'My Life in Numbers Quiz' so far. A few items may change. I plan to have a Prezi with pictures to go through the correct answers for 'grading.'

Student Life in Numbers - So, I will then ask students for 3-5 numbers that describe themselves and why. This has two purposes: to learn a little about my students & to get them thinking for the next activity...paper blogging.

Paper Blogging - This idea comes from Notes from McTeach, a blog I stumbled upon when doing my research when considering blogging my math classroom. I haven't worked out all the details, but in short this activity is to teach what a blog is and to teach good commenting. Students will choose a topic they are passionate about i.e. family, favorite food, sports, etc. I hope that their 'life in numbers' will give them some ideas. Students will write and decorate a paper blog post about that topic. After the paper blogs are written and decorated, students will then practice commenting with post-it notes. This will hopefully occur during day 2 of class. We will discuss the attributes of good blog comments. I will hang the paper blogs around the classroom. Students will read a blog thoroughly, and then leave a comment with a post-it note. Students will then rotate to another blog and leave a new comment or comment on the previous student's comment. At the end of the activity, students will get their paper blog back and get a chance to read any comments and respond with a post-it note if they wish.
I hope this activity will pique an interest in blogging and get us started with blogging in the classroom.
Are you looking for more middle school math teachers'
plans for the first day/week of school? If so, check out #msSunFun...

It's Time . . .

I have so much going through my mind and it's time to write it down. I do not consider myself a writer, so if you're looking for literary excellence, you should probably hit 'back' on your browser now. My brain is constantly swimming, and I think blogging will be an excellent tool for releasing thoughts and reflecting. Reflection is not my preference. It takes time, it can be eye-opening, it can be messy, it requires action...but it is necessary for growth.

Will posts focus on the classroom? I don't know. I want to say yes, but with what's going on in my personal life right now, I can't be sure that a personal post won't pop in every now and again.

Will my posts be regular? I don't know. I want to say yes, but I've tried blogging and journaling before, and I know I have a tendency to fall off.

Will my posts be interesting? I don't know. I want to say yes, but what's interesting and important to me, may not be for others.

So, I don't know what to expect for this blogging experience. I imagine this blog to be a place where the dust settles at the end of the day...the thoughts left over after the dust settles...after the events of the day...after the math...