Monthly Archives: July 2012

Be a Difference Maker! Reflections on New Administration

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Earlier in the summer I posted that we were looking at the possibility of a completely new administration in our building this school year.  Last night, our new principal, who was a former assistant principal, had a faculty meeting.  I made a comment earlier in the spring, IF there was anyone in our building that I would trust to bring us together and move us forward, it was him.  I am very confident in him to be the leader we need.

He shared a couple of new things he envisioned for the school year – but then shared his philosophy of education and expectations he had for us.  Just a few highlights I jotted down.

Do the right thing.  Give your best in everything you do.  Its that simple, he said.  Be

  • Punctual
  • Present
  • Prepared
  • Professional

All reasonable and I believed him when he said he would hold us to these expectations.

Extra curriculuar activitites are the heart and soul of our school.  If we can get kids to participate in something – clubs, sports, band – they feel a since of belonging…like they are part of a community – they will take pride in all they are doing because its part of “their school”.  I am excited he has plans for a Showcase of Learning this fall – highlighting the great things students are doing in our classrooms!

Ask ourselves – Why did I become a teacher?  Remember the reasons we chose this profession to begin with…

Do whatever it takes!  He applauded a colleague who volunteered to take a class of students who had failed English I…for doing whatever it takes to help this students find success.  There was a need and this teacher stood up and said I will do it!  We should all have that attitude – not sitting back waiting on someone to tell us – but when we see a need, step up and do what’s needed – its about focusing on the kids…

Probably the challenge that stuck with me as I left was “Be a difference maker!”

He coached basketball for several years – and was very successful.  He shared about a player – Sarah Roberts Hart – earlier in the summer, this young mother of 3, who was expecting her 4th child, was kidnapped and brutally murdered while on a morning jog – talk about rocking our small town community.  He said, Sarah was a difference maker in all she did.  She wasn’t a teacher – but in all she was a part of – she made a difference.  He challenged us – as we go into our classrooms – we have so many opportunities to influence thousands of young lives – take interest in the kids – show up to support them – we owe it to our students – so, as we go into our classrooms this year…I accept the challenge …

Be a Difference Maker! 

Geo-board Investigations

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I was clearing out some files this weekend and ran across this packet from a presentation at KCTM in 2002.  I had just completed my initial National Board Certification earlier that spring (still didn’t know if I had certified yet) and thought these lessons were worth sharing.

I’m not sure if you’ll be able to read the first two pages – orginal files are long gone and just by happenstance I rance across this packet.  Reading through it – its almost like I was “blogging” 10 years ago – but it reminds how important reflection on your lesson will always be – how much you can learn about teaching by pausing to think about student thinking/responses.  Whether you use actual geo-boards, paper/pencil or modify to www.geogebra.org – maybe they will give you some ideas for your classroom.

Geo-board Investigations

  • Parallel & Perpendicular Investigation – use rectangle properties to find relationship with slopes
  • Amusement Park – distance between 2 points (I hate using distance formula and often allow students to find slope triangle, then apply Pythagorean Theorem)
  • Midpoint Investigation
  • Midsegment Investigation
 
 

*I used the reinforcement tabs for students to write coordinates/label points on geo-boards.  BUT don’t let them peel and stick…just leave on paper and drop over the geo-board tab.

Made4Math #5 Polynomial Station Activities

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Its been one of those busy weeks, so I’ve not actually created anything “new” but decided to share something I used last spring.  The idea developed after @lmhenry9 tweeted a need for ideas to use with polynomial stations.  A month or so later – I decided to use a similar idea.

I purchased a bag of 8 wooden blocks from Hobby Lobby ~ $3.  Used my sharpie to add expressions to the blocks.  Created instruction cards for each station.  Based on a pre-assessment, I grouped kids by similar struggles – those who were a step ahead could “play” more game-like activites – while I could spend time with groups who needed some extra support.  We spent a couple of days in class rotating activities.  I think most pictures are self explanatory.

1.  Collecting Like Terms

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2.  Adding / Subtracting Polynomials* – let students know which “color” block is the first polynomial.  For a little discussion, ask if it really matters?  If so, when/why?

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3.  Multiply Monomial x Polynomial

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4.  Binomial x Binomial

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5.  Factor Match – I didn’t have orginal copies with me to scan – but will get them posted here asap.

 

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I also had a station utilzing a Tarsia-style puzzle with variety of polynomial multiplication expressions.

Tic Tac Times – Students pick 2 factos listed at bottom of the page and multiply.  Place game piece on the product.  First player to get 3 or 4 (you pick the rules) in a row, wins!  For more challenge, each player must use one of the factors just used by their opponent.

* A sidebar – while creating my blocks – my daughter asked what I was doing.  I replied – making a game for my students to play.  She asked – can I play it to?  My first instinct was to tell her No – but I bit my tongue.  And then I remembered a problem she had left on my board one day afterschool and my students had asked me what it was… (After school, she and a couple of other “teachers’ kids” hang out in my room and play school.) I realized it was very similar to how she had been adding and subtracting 3 digit numbers in class this year.  So I explained how the x^2 was like her 100’s, x was like the 10’s and the # was just one’s.  She rolled the blocks and did a few problems…I’m thinking – if a 2nd grader can do it – so can 9th graders, right?

So I went in the next day – and shared “her lesson” with the class.    I gave an example like the one above – referring back to the problem they had seen on my board.  They understood the process of decomposing the numbers to add/subtract.  I connected the example to (3x^2+4x+2)+(2x^2+3x+5) to get (5x^2+7x+7) – good to go.  Then I asked, WHAT IF we let x = 10…  you know – not one student missed these problems again…

#myfavfriday Who Is Robert Wadlow & Super Size It!

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“My Favorite” was probably my favorite part of #TMC12, literally.  The snippets were quick ideas you could easily tweak for your own classroom.  So when @misscalcul8 suggested we continue – I was excited.  That is until I started thinking about what I would share.  How do I pick my favorite?   My favorite what?  I have a whole list of things I want to share – but today…a favorite unit I’ve used many, many times successfully with my students.

Sadly (for me), with CCSS, we have shifted the ratios/proportions completely to the middle school, so one of my favorite units Who Is Robert Wadlow? is no longer included in our Algebra I curriculum at the high school.  I would leave students with the question at the end of class the day before beginning the unit “Who is Robert Wadlow?”  Several would go home and look up – find information.  The following day, we would discuss, share his measurements (most in metric units) and as a class we would determine how to convert to standard units – so it would make the most since to our American Brains.  So my question – was he unnatural?  Or just a bigger version of us?  If you research, you’ll see how he was normal size baby when he was born.  We talk about how you go to the doctor for well-child visits and they measure you – plotting your height/weight on “that curve” and discuss why doctors do that.  How if we’re growing too fast/slow the doctors can run tests to see if something in our growth hormones need to be modified…

Anyway, to end the day we all measure our foot lengths and heights and create a scatterplot…surprised to see – its somewhat correlated (yes 9th graders are growing, so its not perfectly linear…) – then we add RW’s (ft, ht) to the plot…again, surprised to see, he fits the pattern…just a bigger version.  We calculate the height/foot length ratios for the class, then split the data out to boys and girls to see if there is indeed a common ratio…once again, surprised to see how close the ratios actually are.  We talk about people who are clumsy in while growing – what their ratios would look like – if they are too tall for their feet, etc.

I shoudl note I used this as opportunity to teach students how to enter data into lists on TI-84, L1=foot length, L2=height, L3 = (L2/L1) and how to create scatterplots on graphing calculator.

One year I even had students ask if this was related to Vertruvian Man and explore if they were similar to him.

As a final project in this unit, I would assign Super Size It as part of their unit assessment.

Y, B, H with their Super Size It projects.
Special K – scale factor of 5 …125 times more cereal!
Extra Gum – scale factor of 3 … 27 times more gum!
Chocolate Pudding – scale factor of 2 …8 times more pudding!
 
You could easily modify this activity to fit high school geometry – to determine how scale factors affect surface area / volume ratios.
 
Robert Wadlow Ratios & Proportions Unit Organizer
 
A few other files I have used within this unit –

So, for My Favorite Friday – one of my favorite units – I no longer get to use – hopefully one of you can use an idea or two and keep the spirit of Robert Wadlow & Super Size It alive!

Made 4 Math Monday #4 Hole-Punch Game

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Has it seriously been a week since I was here? Yep.

Just one quick thought on #TMC12 for today… It was everything I expected and it was nothing like I expected.  Yes – these people are the rockstars they seem to be on twitter… they are genuine in their desire to become better teachers – willing to share – wanting to learn… and give their students the best learning opportunities possible!  But what I was most amazed with – I was there with people I had never met – I guess I was expecting it to be weird meeting everyone for the first time -but everyone was exactly as I expected them to be… oddly as it may be – I felt like I had known them for ages.  I walked in to MICDS in awe of the company – I left MICDS knowing I had lifelong friendships / colleagues from all across the country.  These folks are the.real.deal.

To end Saturday, we broke out into content areas.  I was part of the Algebra I group.  There were some great ideas shared – @cheesemonkeysf rational expressions scavenger hunt game;  I’m sorry I didn’t write the name down, was it @msimmons5 (sorry if not) – had this great SURVIVOR review game he uses – within a matter of minutes – there were suggestions shared on what to do with kicked-off / disbanded teams.  Hoping he will actually start a blog and well, blog about the idea in its entirety (sp?).

I shared a snippet of an activity called the Staple Game.  It was shared with me at a KLN meeting this spring.  Since I hate to waste office supplies (staples) – I updated it to the “Hole-Punch Game.”  Simple rearrange a worksheet / practice problems so they are placed around a sheet of paper…see this example:

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  • Students work in teams.
  • Each student will complete his/her own work.
  • When everyone has completed 1 problem – they compare answers – to determine which is correct and will be used for the group answer.
  • All team members run over to teacher – teacher checks solution –
    • if correct, hole punch the outer edge of the problem, students return to work space and continue to next problem.
    •  if incorrect, they return to workspace and rework.
  • She also suggested staggering which # each team begins working on.

The teacher who shared said this accomplishes 3 things:

  1. Students must talk / agree on a solution.
  2. Students are physically up and moving.
  3. Sure you could put a check mark, stamp it, etc. but the sound / click of the hole – punch (or stapler) does something crazy and the students – especially for those who are struggling are motivated to keep on working.  Weird, huh?

So for #made4math I am sharing a radical equation hole-punch game.  It could be used as a review or simply as in-class skills practice.

radicalequationholepunchgame

I think you’ll agree this is not a difficult thing to create.  Often times for me, certain classes of students will work harder when a “worksheet” is transformed into a “game-like” activity.  I have also used Tales from the Spring’s Ghosts in the Graveyard activity a couple of times- tweaked for the appropriate season / holiday eggs in a basket, presents under the tree… great discussions occurred every time – students helping students and they completed WAY more practice problems during that short amount of time than I could have ever assigned for them to do otherwise.  The thing I LOVE about this activity – Its not necessarily the fastest, smartest, who completed the most problems that will actually win…

Made 4 Math Monday! Project #3

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Map out your future – but do it in pencil. The road ahead is as long as you make it. Make it worth the trip. Jon Bon Jovi
 
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Pencils!

Yep.  That’s my starting point today!  Growing up I collected pencils – I wish I had taken the time to run by my mom & dad’s and dig out my BOX of pencils.  I had chocolate flavored ones, shaped like hearts the length of the barrel.  From many places –  field trips, vacations, stores, events…they were cheap and small…perfect souvenirs (sp?).

On twitter last week was a discussion of how to identify your pencils – so students would return when they borrowed them.  One person suggested duct tape – great idea!  But I recalled seeing a friend at church with an ink pen and a bright yellow Flower attached to the top.  It looked like so much fun when she was writing!  I did a search to find some ideas – also ran across this post about artsy pencils and plumed pencils.  Check it out!

I know.  Some of you are against letting kids borrow supplies.  I’ve been there and done that.  I could send them to the locker,  send them to office after 3-strikes, you’re out, but the truth is – my time is limited and I need them in my room as much as possible.  Don’t tell me you’ve never shown up in a meeting without something to write with…  Besides, have you actually tried to figure out why they show up without a pencil?

1.  They simply may not have a pencil. (Slip them some plain pencils on the side if they can’t afford them, otherwise a call/email to mom & dad will ensure they start bringing them.)

2. They are lazy bums who can’t go to their locker and get one.  (When they borrow one, my rule says – they must sharpen the pencil before they return it and they must be the last person out of the room, those kids don’t like staying after class…it works, trust me.  Plus it gives you a chance for a quick brief conversation to let them know someone noticed them today!)

3.  They don’t bring a pencil because they want to get out of work (When they borrow yours, they can now work – no excuses).

Yes, I agree – if it becomes a habit, you may have an issue.  But take the time and talk with them – get to the root of the problem first.  In the meantime, enjoy the beauty of your new pencils!

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Half-price bunch of flowers, package of floral tape, pencils.  I simply used a wire cutter to make the stems 2-3 inches long.  Wrap floral tape tightly around it.  When pencils become too short – remove flower and attach to another pencil.  I also purchased a pack of feathers and my 8yo really got into this (her and the cat!)  You can see she hot glued some bling & buttons, a few pipe cleaners too…just plain old fun!  Yes, someone wants to know how to you erase – my 8yo asked the same question.  I have several of the “FOR BIG MISTAKES” pink erasers on hand if needed.

            A heavy vase and a few marbles to hold my “pencil flowers” and I have an adorable arrangement for my desk.  I was leary of the marbles in the vase, that they would break the pencil tips – but just the opposite, it allows the tips to fall between the marbles.   I am actually considering (on one of those off – schedule days) – letting students craft up some pencils, storing them in a bucket in the cabinet and getting them out as needed.  This way students will always know they belong to Room 148 and can police pencil thieves for me!

Cornell Notes Bookmark

As I have been looking for better literacy strategies this summer, I ran across several mentions of C-Notes or Cornell Notes.  @druinok has a nice post here.   I was sharing the strategy with a science – who had used them in an English class before and had found them to be very successful, but mentioned you must be purposeful in requiring students to revisit, fill in left column and complete the summary, otherwise, its not useful. After a couple of days, she messaged me and had read about having students create questions from their notes.  I really. really. like this idea.  We discussed in the beginning to allow them to pull out the big idea, then next step create 3 questions.  Eventually, students would only be allowed to create one basic DOK1 question and the other 2 would require more in depth thinking to answer.  What an awesome idea!  I love having a colleague like this to bounce ideas back and forth!  Another idea someone mentioned – not sure if twitter or a comment in a post – but to only allow students a tweet for their summary – limiting the number of characters…really requires kids to develop a concise summary.

I really liked @druinok’s file for the bookmark – but I’ll be honest, I’m just feeling too lazy to cut out that many.  I’m not sure that my idea will work = it may have made my left column too wide(2 inches) – but I’m going to use it for now.  I purchased some packages of straight-edged border $ per pack.  39 inches / 4 = 9.75 inches – just long enough to 3-hole punch.  12 pieces x 4 strips each = 48 bookmarks!  My intention is to print off labels with my contact info and/or QR Code for class website for students to place on the bookmarks.  This project for all of my students cost me $3 plus labels, if you have to buy them.  It took under 10 minutes to cut and hole-punch 48 bookmarks.

    

Paperclip Holder

 I am forever spilling paperclips into the bottom of my bags.  Those little plastic containers never stay latched for me.  I was cleaning out my purse and just before I tossed the gum container into the trash – I thought…there’s got to be a use for this!  I flipped the top open and snapped it shut a couple of times before coming up with paper clips!  I put about 75 of the jumbo clips in here, you pop the top open, shake a few out, pop the top closed and drop it in the side pocket of your handy-dandy teacher utility tote.  (Post coming on that one next week AFTER a trip to the container store via TMC12!)

         

@druinok’s weekly planner

$1 frame from Mighty Dollar and a print off of @druinok ‘s file!  I think  Ican update this end of day Friday before I leave school, transferring Next Week to the to be done side…  giving me some focus for the upcoming week!  Love this idea!  Hoping it will cut down on amount of post-its I have plastered all over my desk.

Its been another great week.  Just over 3 weeks and my kiddos will be back in the classroom – so I will likely be getting some lessons/activities finalized after getting back from TMC12.  I’ve been putting several things off because of some of the great sessions planned!  Looking forward to all the Made4Math Monday Projects today!

Student Evaluations Part 1

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Warning! Long post – more for my reflection / ramblings than for your enjoyment… 🙂

Each year I ask students to fill out evaluations on me – explaining I need their feedback so I can grow as a teacher.  I tell them administrators can come into my classroom and give me an evaluation – but they are with me EVERY SINGLE DAY – they are the ones who know what’s going on and I respect their views / opinions.

I usually wait a couple of weeks after the end of the semester to read through them – but its been over 8 weeks.  Today, I sat down and began reading.  I chose to separate my evaluations – into 2 groups.  This first group was for students who have basicallly met / surpassed benchmark tests in previous grade.  The second group, Part 2, will include students who have some gaps in their learning, are not as intrinsically motivated and may require more support in getting to mastery.  A couple of things really stood out to me.

  • 3 math topics you have mastered this school year.

Top 3 topics (tying) : Linear Functions, Polynomials/Factoring, Quadratics – followed closely by Function Families, Solving Equations/Inequalities and then a dip in responses to Exponents and Systems.  Very Few students listed Radicals and Sequences.

As I look through the entire evaluations – I realize the 3 top units, I successfully incorporated hands-on activities and allowed their learning experiences to be “more open” meaning – I was not so rigid with assignments – actually I gave them assignments & answer keys ahead of time and they chose to work on what they needed to.  (Remind you, these classes were more self-miotivated learners, so this option was successful).   Hands-on learning, games, lab activities – students were up out of their seats and actively engaged.  I have already begun a post about activities/strategies I used in these units and will start to share those soon.

The Radicals is no surprise since its the top of my next list.  Sequences I was disappointed – we separated them into a self-contained unit – but I’m wondering if they should be placed back into the corresponding unit after seeing some of these reponses.

  • 3 math concepts you still have questions about.

Radicals was listed 34% of the time! Wow.  That’s huge. (Makes me feel like failure. 😦 ) Systems – specifically elimination was listed 11% of the time ( surprise to me) and Exponentials 8% (this one was a surprise also since these students performed so well on their unit assessments).  There were 14 other random topics listed – meaning only 1 or 2 students listed each one.

These surveys are really no surprise – their EOC confirms their concerns, strengths and weakenesses.   When I analyzed unit assessments, I often looked at problems that >25% of students had trouble with – to me there may be issues with how I presented the content, thus I revisit the topic/concept.  Radicals is a topic I’ve been looking for resources this summer – knowing I had to improve with this topic!

When we met as a department, we are looking at the first unit Real Numbers – embedding an intro to radicals within the unit – since Rational vs. Irrational was one of the standards we addressed.  I have located a few online resources – like Real Teaching means Real Learning’s post on Teaching Radicals in Less than Five MInutes.  I plan to tweak the “game” a bit – but it uses the basis of Go Fish!  Students play rounds of Go Fish! collecting “books of 2”, next round “books of 3”, 4 and so on…. but with Books of 5 – cannot be done since they only have up to 4 of a kind in their decks.

This leads to examples of square roots, cube roots, 4th root and so on with an expression involving both numbers and variables.

My colleague and I pulled out a deck of cards and tested the game – going through the lesson framing, etc.  We think it will be a success!

I am looking at the use of pythagorean theorem / perimeter of triangles to intro operations with radicals.

I welcome any resources you have found to help students with these topics.

As I finish – I will share just a snipit of the remaining questions I asked students:

  • What are things I do well as a teacher?

 Most of the responses fell within each of these listed.  I would be very satisfied if my child was in a classroom where the teacher did these things well.
 
  • connects with students (#1 – you have to create a relationship with your students – they have to know you care!)
  • explains math fully / in depth
  • addresses ALL of our questions (tho’ some of them argued I never ANSWERED their question, I did address it!)
  • connects math with us! / real life situations I can aconnect to
  • you teach – you don’t just sit there (students actually wrote this…I found it a bit humorous myself, you mean people don’t teach? Really?  They just, uh, sit at their desks?)
  • offers help before/after school
  • Life Lessons*
 
 *  I will have to share more on these in a later post!  Students presented me with this poster as a reminder of “all they actually learned in math class.  At the end of the year awards ceremony, I was awarded “The Best Jim Carey Voice Impersonation.”  I’m not quite sure if there is a compliment or a dig in there!  All I can say is – I LOVE MY JOB!  And I get exctied!  Oddly enough, the student who came up with this award is the same one who responded I was moody on things I needed to improve. 
 
  • What are things I could improve as a teacher?

post attendance (my 1st period – I would get into class and simply FORGET! Clerk was always calling me… ugh. got to do better.)
more in-class time to work on assignments (possibly a shot at flipping this year to address this one???)
more hands-on (I feel I do quite a bit – but they want more!!! )
one student even said I was moody (I promise to stay hydrated, eat breakfast and get more sleep???)
 
There were other responses like “you do everything well” etc – which makes me feel that I was a success overall as a teacher in general – but truth is, I know there are many areas for growth!  The day I quit asking how can I improve, is the day I need to stop working with students…and get out of the classroom!
  • What activities, strategies, methods did you find most beneficial / effective?

 
  • Labs / Group Activites! / Hands-on (Battleships / Mines, Bungee Barbie, Marshmallow Catapults – definite winner!)
  • Lab Report (I began this the last month of school to fulfil part of my writing/literacy folders, but with so many responses from students that it was beneficial, I plan to use it with all data labs we complete this school year!)
  • Computer Lab Time – and Lab Journals
  • Creating our own tests! (I wondered if this was really helpful, but even in talking with a couple of parents – this was a strategy that caused students to look deeper in what the learning target was really asking.)
  • Wrong Answer Analysis – mentioned many, many times! YES!!! *fist pump* 
  • Notes
  • I do. You do. We do. (note taking strategy)
  • Songs – I am a Bob Garvey Math Madness fan
  • Rating of online resources we used throughout the school year.

I was in the computer lab one day each week and used this time as RTI – if students were progressing, they were given a specific task to complete online, then were asked to learn all they could about upcoming topics – I tried to use it as a front-loading strategy.  Letting them expose themselves to online resources on topics in the next unit.  I then asked them to journal about their finds – but this year, I think I will play off of I Speak Math’s idea of utilizing a class wikispace and allow students to fill Concept Help Pages with online resources they find helpful.
 
I gave students a list of most online resources students had used this year, but I am only listing the ones they rated a VERY helpful (9 or 10 out of 10).
Cool Math
Geogebra also check out www.geogebratube.org for teacher-shared resources
Ten Marks as a teacher you are able to set up your classes (free), choose a basic curriclum, assign entire units or specific topics to the entire class or individual students.  It was a good resources for students on home-bound placement or those who had been out for extended days.  I also used it as a resource to share with parents for students who needed remedial work for mastery of standards.  Like any resource, its not and end-all, be-all – but I found it to meet some of my classroom needs.
Khan Academy from a handful of students. – I realize there are debates about Khan – I agree with some arguments – but for certain situations / students it is a great resource.  I had a student who loved math and completed many, many lessons/practice to fill in “downtime” during the lab and on own time at home – just because they wanted to learn more, beyond what I was doing…I see nothing wrong with that.
 
I often made assignments with Geogebra using investigations and skill/concepts in Ten Marks – so these were probably the 2 they were exposed to most often.  By far the Cool Math was listed as most helpful – students would often go there first as they began to look for help.  Students like the simplistic explanation – they say its easy to follow and they like the crunchers – practice options with some lessons. 
  • Most memorable moment this year…aka in 20 years, what will you remember most about Room 148:

Lots of laughs came from these responses for me.  Several comments on life lessons, finding the sunshine and “Getting Happied” (confetti cannons! still have confetti stuck in my ceiling!) –

…but the one that made me most proud as a teacher… a student responded “Learning!”   And that, folks, is what its all about.