Attention to Precision #MTBoS


Recently we complete the Parallel Lines AB from Desmos.

desmos parallel

As I was reading through the reflection slide and responses, I noticed several students had not actually answered the question.  Hmmmm.

Did they understand what it was asking?

I quickly began taking snapshots of their responses, the sorting them and presented them in groups by similarity.  My question to them – “What question do these answer?”  And this is where we began class the following day.

We discussed using pronouns and whether this was the best choice of words or not.  Then there was this set of responses.

attetnion to precision c

This led to how we can review our responses to make sure we are answering the question being asked.

I remember when I taught geometry, students would often solve the problem, but they never actually used that solution to address the actual question being asked.  Calling their attention to this was often eye-opening and helped to remediate the issue quickly.

Attention to precision for me can be several things.  Accurate work, labeling our quantities, but also communicating our reasoning, answering a question thoroughly, supporting our responses with evidence.  Snapshots is a wonderful tool to bring things like this to light.

What are some ways you address attention to precision in your classroom?

Student Reflection in Our Classroom #MTBoS2020Challenge


This place is more than a bit dusty.  I’m more than a little embarrassed. But here I am.

Challenging  myself to post a blog for the challenge in under 20 minutes. Ha. (more like 30).

A tweet at lunch time reminded me that several things I do in the classroom are not always the norm in other math classes.  And that’s okay.  But I feel strongly about some of them.  Others I’ve forgotten how well they lend to open discussions and helping students move forward.

End-of-Lesson or End-of-Day Reflection

Students choose one sentence starter and write.  Then share at their table.  I walk around, listening, reading.  I will sometimes do these on sticky notes and let students rate their level of confidence as they exit the door.  Everyone can fit into at least one of these.  Often times, students will respond to all three.  The sentence starters:

Something I’ve learned…

Something I’ve realized…’

Something I was reminded of…

Vocabulary Rating Chart

This next one has opened my eyes at how easily we can miss information from our students, IF we don’t take the time to see/hear.  I initially learned about this from @mathequalslove, then modified it to fit my booklet style unit organizers for the composition notebooks.  It is easy to use, helpful to gain insight to students understanding and able to give some quick one-on-one help or a whole class discussion.  In class, we call them our Words Worth Knowing.  On the right hand column of this picture.

Before beginning a unit, students rate their understanding of the vocabulary.

  • 1 – I’ve never heard of it before.
  • 2 – I’ve heard this word before.
  • 3 – I think I know it.
  • 4 – I know it and can explain it to someone else.

Usually there are no big surprises on day 1.  However, I have noticed the higher ratings in recent years since CCSS has been in place with many vocabulary, which means we no longer must introduce the terms but simply build on their foundation.

Usually a couple of days prior to a test/quiz, I ask students to grab a marker and rate their current knowledge.  I walk around and observe, making note on any 1’s or 2’s – If a student has been absent or maybe I did not do a good job of getting that term across, I am able to address it immediately, fill in those gaps prior to the next assessment.  It only takes a few moments planning prior to the unit, but I see the benefits very worthwhile.

unit functions outside inb

Two-Minute Assessment Grid

2-minute assessment (reflection grid) – seen on the left side of the above picture.  I’ve used this many years and in many different settings and its almost always helpful.   If I include it on the unit organizer, I can quickly have students to respond.  However, my favorite is using the sticky notes as linked above.


  • + One improvement I can make…
  • ? A question I still have (if no Qs, then a caution…)
  • lightbulb – An A-HA moment
  • ! Something I want to remember…

It can be used with a lesson, or unit – but I like using the students questions to set up the next day’s lesson.  I’ll share some ideas about that later!

Student Engagement Wheel

I think between some moves and remodeling, I had lost this one.  But I ran across it in a binder the other day.  Its from @dsladkey – look him up.  I love this as a teacher reflection.   Some ideas for how I’ve used it.


You can do it daily or for the week.  But what’s more eye opening, is inviting you students to rate you.  When I see I’m low in an area, it makes me aware of what I need to consider when planning for the next week or unit.  Its a great tool for teachers to use and reflect on opportunities they provided for their students.  I love it.

An improvement I can make on student reflection…  

Giving students time to process their notes.  In a meeting a few weeks ago, our ALM colleague, Rita Messer, shared a couple of ideas to help students reflect and process their notes.  So often we give students notes, but how often do we ask them to do something really meaningful with them?

After a series of notes.  Pause. Let students read back through.  Ask them to give a summary of the MVP – the most valuable point of the notes.  Another idea would be to write about the Muddiest Point, what’s unclear about the notes.  As a teacher, walk around and observe what they are writing.  Have a brief conversation with them.  After they’ve written, allow them time to share. at their tables.  And listen.  You can quickly revisit their MPs and even highlight the MVPs before moving on to the next set of notes.  In a sense, this is a THINK-INK-PAIR-SHARE – but with the MVP or Muddiest Point, it gives students a focus as they are reviewing their notes.

Feel free to share ideas you have on student and teacher reflection in the classroom!

Thanks for the Challenge Jennifer Banks!


Bouncy Balls #MTBoSBlaugust #oldisnew


Wondering what I should blog about for #MTBoSBlaugust, I went back to posts from early days of The Radical Rational and ran across this post “And They’re Off!”  I really like where I was at that point in my teaching.  I have felt for a while – that was the beginning of my “peak” years – when I felt I was really reflective, purposefully planning and assessing, providing opportunities for student thinking and them asking questions.

As I read through the post, I had a flashback to late spring – seeing my tube of bouncy balls in my storage cabinet and thinking – I’ve not had these out for a while.  So, I see Week 1 this year as a perfect opportunity – Do a little WCYDWT? – offering up the bouncy ball.

Hopefully the discussions will lead to data collection ideas – and then we can talk about what things we are measuring in their ideas.  What would the graphs of this data look like compared to that….  eventually leading to the idea of discrete (# bounces vs drop height)  or continuous (height of ball over a 10 second time period after dropping it).

Or maybe discussions of different “shapes” of graphs and why this maybe happens?

I have used bouncy balls several times in class and kids always love them.

What are some “cost efficient” data collection ideas you can share?






Summer Reading 2019 #MTBoSBlaugust #mtbos


Life gets crazy for me whenever school is in session, so that’s why I try my best to fill much of my summer with reading that never gets done August to May.  This summer is no different.  I did not get as much read as I had liked, but quality over quantity always.


Along with these summer reads, a post from Amy on her use of Stand and Talks from Sara led back to this Global Math from Sara.  It is a great resource and introduction if you are not familiar with the structure.  It would be a perfect PLC video.  S&T will definitely be in the lineup on a regular basis this school year!  I constantly find myself looking at graphs, questions and asking – how could this be tweaked into a stand and talk?

I have a couple of more titles – I’d hoped to finish before school started, but I think they’ll have to be the “keep in the car to read while waiting to pick up at band rehearsals” books – Five Practices into Practice and Routines for Reasoning.

Its been a productive and good break this summer.  I’ll share more in later posts about specific take a ways from my reading.

So what’s been on your reading list and what were your take a ways?


All Things Old… Are New Again: Unit Planners #MTBoS


Last week, we had a couple of required days at school to work on refining curriculum maps.  We are returning to the structure of the Course & Unit Organizers out of Kansas.  This is something we utilized for planning around 2005-2006 for several years, then it slowly dwindled away through change of administration, etc.

This is the course organizer we have for Algebra I.

One side shows a graphic map of the course.  The other lists overview of standards as defined by Kentucky Department of Education.

Here is an example of the Unit Organizer.

Left column allows me to list the unit schedule – tasks/lessons/notes in the order I have planned and link them to resources, websites.  The center graphic is the big ideas – the what of the unit, with color coded links to unit relationships – the verbs of the unit.  Right column is words worth knowing – a literacy strategy for pre-post self assessment of vocabulary I saw from @mathequalslove and modified to fit my purposes.

I struggle with Essential Questions – was told by one person these should be what determines our assessment questions, but another said it was the BIG PICTURE of why we are learning these concepts.  I need to go back and read McTighe and Wiggins book (I think that’s the correct one).

We chose to leave the backside as an open table – some teachers prefer to track HW completion, some student self-assessments during formative assessments and practice.  This table will be modified by individual teachers.

Though I loved this structure nearly 15 years ago when we were first introduced to it – I still modified the original layout to work with what I wanted in my classroom.  I used to have every student have a 3 ring binder and we used these daily to focus our learning.  However, a few years ago – a discussion with Crazy Math Teacher Lady led me to the following layout for my INBs.  It has ALL of the same information, but the look/structure of it has been helpful and purposefully used in our classroom, so I will submit the format required by administration, however, I will likely continue to use this format with students since I only need to update and refine a few items due to Kentucky’s latest release of KCAS – standards.

This is actually printed front/back and folded for booklet style with first picture the outside of the booklet and table tracker the inside.


Finally, I am sharing a page we were required to fill out not so long ago – initially it was for each lesson – overwhelming.  But I chose to use it as a checklist for unit planning.  This would ensure I had considered all program review requirements for Practical Living / Consumer Sciences, Writing, Reading, Arts/Humanities, Culture/Word Language/Equity.  A checklist of differentiation/modifications/formative assessment strategies and inquiry/technology/problem solving.

I could see this being useful as a modified checklist of reminders of strategies I have learned about and want to implement but also that I have completely considered all aspects of ALL the things we need to consider in planning the unit.  This is NOT my document Unit Overview checklist, nor can I give credit because it has been in my files for a while.


Do I believe the actual structure of the planning tool is the difference maker?  Absolutely not.  However I can appreciate that administration wants everyone “on the same page” and how building a resource for new teachers to ensure a continuous progress in course work can be valuable.

I do believe that having conversations with your team, ensuring everyone is focused on the same content is a change maker.  I believe having a structure to follow to ensure you have considered all things to include in your planning ahead of time… beginning with the end in mind, having a plan in place before you start, allows you to adjust within the learning cycle efficiently.

Experience as a Learner Survey #MTBoS #eduread


My summer reading has started with these two books

both highlighting the importance of an environment that supports risk-taking / academic safety.  Though a bit different discussion – both seem to say how important it is that we create a place – in our actions/words/approach that lets students feel they have access to the learning and eventually willing to engage and take academic risks.  We not only need to build that rapport and trust and safety but it is necessary to protect it once its been developed.

So many great ideas shared by each author – but one last night in our chat #eduread

When reading, this passage really stuck out to me.  Yes teachers care – but the type of caring they exhibit is different and sometimes wrongly interpreted as not caring.  I have been guilty.  Sadly.

But this sentiment shared by @druinok reminded me of a survey I have been giving my students since at least 2014.  It was shared by Grant Wiggins prior to his passing.  I adjusted it to fit my needs.  If you’ve never read any of his posts – take some time and visit – his blog is still up.  I think it was the post Student Engagement and Feedback that eventually lead me to the “Experience as a Learner Survey.”  

Students fill this out completely anonymous.  I do not read the responses until several weeks after they have submitted.  I still have not looked at this past semesters, but plan to in the next week or so.  It gives me some time away from them, but allows me time to reflect on their results and make some adjustments / set some goals for the upcoming year.  I believe it is a fair representation of their view of me and our classroom and I am able to see myself, somewhat, through their eyes.

I have another teacher/course evaluation students fill out that is very specific to our course/learning structures.  With the two combined, I feel I have a good snapshot of our classroom experiences.

What are some resources you use to weigh your perception vs. your students’ perception of you?

Summer Reading 2019 Book 1 #hackingQs


Hacking Questions:  11 Answers That Create a Culture of Inquiry in Your Classroom by Connie Hamilton


What a great read!  So many thoughtful, practical tips that can impact my classroom tomorrow – except, its summer break, so I suppose impact my classroom next fall!

I always enjoy a lighter read to begin my summer learning and a chat with colleagues and friends to reflect on what we’ve read is always a good thing.  You can search up #eduread over that past few weeks for mine and @druinok’s take on this book.

One thing I loved about this book was the quotes to begin each hack.  I am thinking I will make mini posters, highlighting the word/focus: Engage, Think, Reflect, Listen, etc.  @druinok even stated at one point – the quotes alone could lead to some great PLC conversations.

My biggest take-a-way from the entire book is INTENTIONALITY.  There are such good suggestions, but preparation and being intentional with implementation of those ideas is the foundation of creating this culture.  Many of her strategies are simple moves on things a veteran teacher may already do – but why/how it impacts learning is very enlightening to me.  I walk away after each hack, feeling like I can do this.  I can make that work in our classroom.  There was really nothing in the book that overwhelmed me.  I never once felt I had to add to what I was already doing – but simply to adjust / make what I do better with her take on things.

A jot-down for each hack that I made…

  • student feedback with new protocols, what worked, and how could we refine?
  • IDK becomes a rise to action, not an end result.
  • a punctuated lesson models responsibility, time management and goal setting – the student has a plan.
  • teachers and students playing PINK PONG with questions – this gives a false sense of discussion.
  • what impact will my questions have on triggering their thought?
  • content questions alone are not enough – metacognitive…
  • teachers include themselves in student learning – GET OUT of the way!
  • answers are not transferable, logical thinking and reasoning are transferable.
  • most difficult to master (for me) passing the baton back to them – accountability – who’s doing the thinking? “might”
  • Very specific Questions trigger responses that expire.  we cannot without ownership of learning by asking all of the questions.
  • Come to school to enjoy a day with your students.

These are just thoughts from the reading that made me pause or convicted me somehow to make improvements.  There are numerous structures offered within each hack.  I would like to add a few more posts and share my thoughts on how I see things going in my classroom.  The author does a beautiful job of helping us see how to walk in tomorrow and make a small adjustment;  she shares snapshots from real classrooms, offers ways to think about the pushbacks we may encounter and how to overcome them.

I am very appreciative of her sharing of ready to use resources on her website as well.

This book is great for any teacher at any grade level with any level of experience – young and veteran alike.  Get it. Read it. Talk about it.  Reflect on it.

Let me know how your changes impacted your students’ learning!

Summer Reading 2019 #mtbos #literacy #alm


We’ve been out of school for a couple of weeks, but my calendar has been full. Finally a few days to enjoy downtime, sit outback and read.

Just before school ended, I finished reading Where the Crawdads Sing, very much enjoyed. Currently I am reading / listening to Dolphin Island, In Good Faith, All the Light We Cannot See. What in the world does a struggling reader think she is doing with 3 different titles going at once?!? One is print, another on Kindle and the last is in Audible.

As soon as I finish these, I have If You Find Me on my list – two of my friends have both been captivated by this story.

My summers usually help me fill up on professional reading. I am finishing up an informal chat with @druinok on Hacking Questions, by Connie Hamilton. Quick read filled with sensible suggestions and doable strategies. So much of it has me reflecting on my own practice and what small changes I can make to have a bigger impact.

If you are looking for something not over the top, I believe this one is a great place to start. Her structure of chapters offers ideas you can implement tomorrow, ways to overcome pushback. It really pushes me to consider how I can be more intentional in my planning for sure.

This stack is my summer goal:

This box is mostly for a classroom library I was able to receive through a literacy grant. Excited about these as well!

Do, what’s on your summer reading list?

Being Vintage at a Tech Conference


This past week I had the opportunity to attend KySTE.  The theme this year V2V  Vintage to Virtual.  I chose the Vintage sticker for my name tag.  Afterall – I went through high school and college without the internet, much less Google.  My favorite game in the early 80s was River Raid on my Atari 2600.  I learned to type on a dinosaur computer – that had to be booted with a 5 1/2 floppy each class.  I remember the very first email I ever sent.  It was my 2nd year in the classroom.  I bought my first desktop – with a CDRom when I graduated college.  My 1st phone was a Motorola Flip in 1997 – I had 30 minutes of talk for $29.95 a month.  I still have my iPod Nano.

There were plenty of other vintage teachers there – one had been in education for 42 years!  Wow. –  but I can actually say, it was the first time at a conference I looked around and saw the age differences.  Though I still have a few years left – I pride myself on trying to stay abreast of new ideas – reading, research and planning new tasks to keep my classroom fresh with up to date learning opportunities for my learners.

One thing I really learned at KySTE – that I must write my notes.  It is unbelievable when I pause and try to remember the things from each session.  It actually bothers me.  I made the choice to type my notes – it was a tech conference after all.  And I regret it.  Even looking at my typed notes – there are details that I missed.  Lesson learned.  Never again.  I will drag out my trusty graph paper composition notebook and write all that I want to remember.

I had 3 goals before attending:

  • Literacy – being a part of our ALM Team this year made me want to bring home some ideas to build on those strategies;  maybe find some tools to impact my efforts in developing better opportunities.
  • Google Classroom – I have been utilizing Classroom for about 1 1/2 years now – but I felt that I could learn more – to become more effective and efficient with it.
  • Math – always my top priority of course, but only a handful of sessions with a secondary math focus.  There were actually 2 sessions on Desmos, but one was a beginners level and the other was using for 3D printing – which I do not have.

I plan to post a summary of the resources and sessions I took away.  But my big idea – I wanted to get into a post – as a reminder to myself – why not create generic forms utilizing my most used Literacy Strategies, exit tickets, reflection prompts?  I could quickly push these to the students in their classroom as needed during the class and access their responses quickly as time allowed.  Maybe even share their responses with the class somehow.

However, part of my is hesitant – after the realization that my written notes are not as effective for me.  Will the same be true if my students are creating their responses typed into a form as opposed to a written post-it or other physical form?

Supporting Students During Instruction #eduread


Several years ago – in the beginning of discussions / learning of RTI,  I remember a curriculum supervisor making a statement – that we need a file of several resources – addressing goal concepts at different levels of understanding – that we can pull from as we have need to address intervention needs of our students.

With recent reading, this statement comes to front of my thinking.  The reading supports the idea of formative assessment – to catch students during the learning cycle and address their immediate needs.  This book date was 2010 – just the beginning of my own learning cycle and implementation of true formative assessment.


There are five steps outlined in Chapter 2

How to Develop and Deliver an Intervention Plan

  1. Identify mastery thresholds.
  2. Establish “red flags.”
  3. Develop on-going assessment measures to identify red flags.
  4. Select appropriate interventions.
  5. Monitor the effectiveness of each intervention.

I found a statement interesting as we were asked to think about “What are some of your current mastery thresholds?  How can you tell when students have moved from “almost got it” to “got it”?  The statement was to look beyond mastery thresholds tied strictly to academic achievement, but also as related student behaviors implied by the curriculum – such as participation, note taking, study habits and work completion. ( page 36)  I see this as the behavior may actual cover-up the understanding, if I am not carefully seeing beyond the behavior.

The establishment of red flags is helpful – after all, its human nature to cover up what we don’t know – so as a teacher, we have thought about/anticipated student actions, behaviors to help us gather data and making decisions on next steps during instruction.  Red flags are objective – intervention based on data rather than my opinion of who low-performing, gives students who are not prepared or embarrassed to ask for help.  Students may seem to be getting it by their behaviors but miss the mark on an assessment.  The red-flag system provides a safety net, per se’.

Four rules for establishing red flags:

  • unambiguous
  • hard to ignore
  • trigger an action
  • focused on academic concerns not behaviors.

Well.  I had to stop after reading this.  I needed to reflect on the next Think About…

What methods do I currently use to determine that a students is struggling?  What signals let me know they are falling below mastery?  Or signals that I missed in the past?

How do I tell they are no longer struggling?  Or even bored and ready to move on?

These are questions I really have not considered.  However, I do feel that I am a responsive teacher in the classroom.  I began really listening and paying attention to student behavior, actions about the time this book was published.  I started listening to my students rather than for the answers (Thanks, Max!)

Pausing during instruction – noticing their actions – how long do they take to engage in the problem/task?  The looks on their faces.  The conversations at tables – really listening to what they are saying – when I ask them to turn and talk.  I walk around the room and truly listen.  Ask questions specifically to their conversations – to dig deeper and see if they are getting it.

I search for common misconceptions as I walk around the room.  And I like to share – using Leah Alcala’s “favorite no” structure.  Ask, “What do you think this student was thinking?”  But I love to also use the Two Stars and a Wish/a Question.  What does this student know?  What question could we ask them to help adjust their thinking and see their mistake?

I initially thought I did not have a red flag list.  But pondering my teaching – I feel that the sequence and choice of examples I present during a lesson allows for a large portion of my red-flags.  I anticipate their mistakes and even give them some “wrong” work to analyze the mistakes as part of the learning task.  I realize this may not be enough, but it is a beginning.

Step 3 is an area I worked on with a colleague in Algebra I with intention last school year.  We took our units and planned at least one formative assessment for every learning target in the unit.  We tried to plan a variety of tasks.  We have some planned followup for some of the FAs, however, this is work to continue and build upon each time it is taught.  Having planning FA is so helpful.  Ensuring those FA are also connected to a specific red flag is even more powerful.  Giving an example that is often missed during a feedback quiz, allows us the opportunity to see where the group may be.  IF a large number have issues, we can address with the entire class.  IF only a handful have issues, its an opportunity to sit one=on=one and have a quality conversation.

Step 4 on selecting appropriate interventions is an area that challenges me.  Thinking of support and interventions differently – I am still not confident in this thinking.  But this statement seems to help – The most effective interventions provide a temporary learning support, are available to students on an as-needed basis and are removed when they are no longer needed.  So intervention provides the support. (?)

I honestly stressed reading this section.  It felt overwhelming and not doable.  I wanted to give up and quit reading.  Then I continued and the following list confirmed I was doing some things right.

Types of interventions discussed:

  • Student Conferences
  • Feedback
  • Concrete Examples
  • Graphic Organizers
  • Cheat Sheets & Cues
  • Memory Strategies
  • Summarizing
  • “Break Glass” Strategies – this was new to me
  • Tiered HW Assignments
  • Modeling Thinking Strategies
  • Task Breakdowns
  • Mandatory Extra Help (not punitive)
  • Peer Tutoring (we do a lot of “buddy checks” at our tables, allows students to ask a peer a question they may not be comfortable asking to the entire class)

But note these are not things I just did.  These are strategies suggested by colleagues, gathered at conferences, read from a blog post or found during a book chat reading.  These things did not just happen.  I purposefully planned them along the way.  Some worked initially.  Some failed miserably.  But most are in my toolbox and ready to pick up at any given time when I recognize a red flag.

I believe this merits a reminder from Steve Leinwand – It is unreasonable to ask a professional to change much more than 10 percent a year, but it is unprofessional to change by much less than 10 percent a year. {MT, page 582, may 2007

We cannot possibly learn and change everything all at once.  But it is a disservice to our students if we do not change at all.  Pick a new strategy or change up a lesson with an new approach.  What is it you want to do/accomplish?  What do you want to learn?  How might you apply it to your classroom instruction?  Research. Plan. Action. Reflect.  Adapt.  This is how you build a vast toolbox of quality resources and strategies.

Interventions should…

  • be designed to get students quickly back on track, addressing immediate needs but also keeping up with current learning taking place.
  • NOT be punitive, even if students are struggling because of their irresponsible behavior (not lying, I struggle here.  but I must find ways for students to recognize their choices led them to this point, discuss possible choices and the outcomes of each, help remind them the next time they are at a place to make a choice.  behavior interventions and academic interventions are not the same – although as teachers we see how some behavior leads to the need of the academic intervention.  this in my opinion is where relationships trump everything else – knowing your students, having conversations with them can lead to my understanding of why they chose the way they did.  and hopefully those conversations will continue to grow trust between us and allow me to help direct them to choices that will lead to a greater outcome.)
  • seamless and unobtrusive
  • systematic
  • temporary
  • minimal
  • specific
  • not be labor intensive (let me know when you figure this one out!)

At this point in the reading – there is a worksheet to help you in the process of planning red flags and interventions.

Step 5 Evaluate the interventions for effectiveness.  Again – reflection, analysis, adapt, action.

A suggestion made I want to make note of for my own reminder – is weaning them off of the interventions.  For example – if we allow students to use notes on a test, if we continue to do this the entire year, they become dependent on their notes and may not learn the concepts as deeply as we like.  One suggestion was to gradually withdraw.  An idea – Test 1, all notes allowed, Test 2 notes allowed during last half of the test,  Test 3 notes allowed during last five minutes of testing period.  Test 4 no notes.  OR  T1 all notes, T2 one sheet of paper, T3 5 x 7 index card, T4 no notes.  Either one shows a need for good note taking but students cannot be totally dependent.

A final statement made – is that interventions assume students want help.  When they refuse help, we need to know the way.  This falls back to knowing our students.  Relationships matter.

Thanks for allowing me to muddle through my thinking on this reading!  Have an amazing day.