Monthly Archives: December 2015

Looking Forward to in 2016 #MTBoS12Days


Not so much implementing anything “new” in my classroom, but…refining things I’ve already started – utilizing proven tools I’ve used in the past; being intentional with student reflection/owning their learning; purposeful questioning / open questioning / building-in opportunities for discussion and sharing.

I look forward to making students’ brains hurt… (not really, but I want them to think!)

I look forward to building better assessments as my colleague across the hall challenged me to be accountable to cumulative assessments every 4-6 weeks.

I look forward to discussions in Math PLCs concerning our practices and utilizing one another as resources / soundboards for ideas.

I look forward to learning more about doodling/sketch noting as I experiment with it in my own reading/learning.

I look forward to laughter and thinking and good times in room 148.


Classroom Wishlist #MTBoS12Days


My Classroom Wishlist:

Non of the following are necessities, but don’t we all have wishes that will move our classrooms forward?  Some are instructional purposes, some are conveniences for me.

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  • separate desk/chairs, desks with flat top surfaces, would allow me to group in various sizes – those pictures above, a set of 30 would run just under $2,000.
  • large 2′ x 3′ group white boards (OR large white boards for blank wall space…)
  • 15 tablets/devices for classroom use – could easily pair up to complete online work with desmos or other investigations without having to wait days to get into an overbooked computer lab
  • I plan to make a window shade that can be tied up or untied in need of a lock down.
  • A projector remote – when I moved to this room over the summer, the remote was missing.  I use a yard stick (aka magic wand) to turn the projector on, switch between modes.

Tried & True #MTBoS12Days


This is a short list of some of my favorite go-to tasks – mostly used for review / practice…  I’ve shared these numerous times with colleagues and they have used them with much success in ELA, Science, World Languages as well as other math classes.  I know when they’ve used them because students come into my classroom talking about it!

Nathan Kraft’s Grudge / Zombie  – kids beg to play it, they often use whiteboards, but other teachers have used it with paper/pencil.  I walk around the room to check their work.  It can be played with as little as 10 minutes left in class!  If I see common errors, I present them for discussion before we play the round.  Note:  Some people feel this game promotes competition rather than collaboration/learning.  I’ve not had any issues.  But you know the students in your classroom best.

Math Tales From the Spring’s Ghosts in the Graveyard – easily adapts to whatever holiday – Presents under the Tree, Eggs in a Basket, Leaves on a Tree, Footballs on the Field…  After playing this review game with students – they always ask to play it again at the next review.  I’ve even left this with Substitute teachers before – kids did more work those days than when I was there.  My Science colleague likes this review activity because its by chance who wins – it could be the team who has answered the most or the team who has answered the least.  But guaranteed, students are engaged the entire time.

The Hole Punch Game – Scroll to bottom of this post for description and an example file.  The file above is not one I created and I have no idea who to give credit to, but its a tried and true and always a success.


Fraction Families


My husband and I spent Christmas Eve morning “spring cleaning” afterall, it was spring like outside.  As I sifted through some old files, many were purged, I ran across this old copy of a task I called Fraction Families



I remember using this in the mid-late 90s as a standby task for general math/pre-algebra to leave with substitute on a day I would be out of the classroom.  The next day was a follow-up and discussion of all the patterns they noticed.

I wonder how I could modify this task for use in a high school Algebra setting…

One Thing to Improve… #MTBoS12Days


This is my fourth year using INBs.  However, in the past couple of years, I have become a bit lax in the structure of them.  I used to be very intentional in input/output pages that mimicked Cornell Notes, providing opportunities for student reflection on their thinking/learning.  This is what I want to improve…to get back to providing these opportunities for students to think/write/process.

Last summer I read this article on Cognitive Benefits of Doodling from The Atlantic and since,  I have noticed several folks posting Sketched Notes.  Especially out of Trinity in Georgia.  Several of @jgough’s  (this one, Reflection Required: Learning Over Time) caught my attention.  I was ecstatic to finally meet her face to face at NCTM Regionals in Nashville last month!  I observed her across the room in a session and watched as she doodled away.  She completes her notes and tweets them out prior to leaving a session.  Check out one of her Pinterest Boards with pins from her learning journey…


As we talked, I shared how a colleague commented on how she used shading…she laughed saying – it made her happy that someone noticed, because that is something she had been working on most recently – the use of shading.  What I appreciate most about Jill is how open she is in her learning experiences.  She is willing to share the ups/downs and process her thinking in ways that allows others to grow through her posts.  I consider her an unkowing mentor – someone I’ve learned from through the years.

As we discussed some of the ideas / reasoning behind using sketch/doodle notes, she suggested two resources.  One I have just completed this afternoon:  There are downloadable materials but I have mostly watched the videos and doodled his examples.  I intend to use this tool as I read professional books this semester and try a few suggestions this semester.  Then somehow next summer, decide on strategies I can use to incorporate them – doodles- into INBs for students to take mundane material and make their brains explode as they expand their thinking through doodles.

The other resource she suggested is Sunni Brown’s The Doodle Revoltution…a gift to me, from me (no shame).  I look forward to using it as a tool to grow in this area as I search for ways to teach my students better note-taking strategies that will allow them to process, make connections on their own and as a result, allow them to grow.

It seems Sketch Notes lend themselves a little better to humanities/LA/even science/text-based courses.  I’m very interested in hearing how others use visual notes in math class…

Educator Superhero: Blueprint #MTBoS12Days


This really wasn’t one of the original prompts, but I’m cheating and using it just in case I run out of time to complete my 12 Days Challenge!

I think these little quizzes are ridiculous…after all, how far is it to the nearest train/subway from my neck of the woods?  Interestingly enough, I kind of think this fits me…

Blueprint© 2015 ASCD.
Power: Master planner
Qualities: Reflective, deep thinker, planner

Still waters run complicated. You believe that anything worth doing is worth doing well and deserves careful planning. You’re always thinking about ways to improve instruction (I believe almost everyone who knows me, will agree with this…), and you have multiple contingency plans in place when your students struggle with a lesson. Your colleagues sometimes wonder if you overthink things (oh my…its true), but, on the other hand, you’re always prepared for the unexpected.

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Code Name: Blueprint

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Reflection: Start, Stop, Continue… #MTBoS12days


Start:  I really like how @druinok has successfully worked the MC Mondays and Flashback Friday’s into her weekly routine.  Both of these ideas feel like something I can do with some level success.  They incorporate the quiz often to address frequent opportunities for retrieval as well as reviewing old topics/skills.

I want to start using more written reflection for student learning as well.  I used to be more intentional with this.  Hold me accountable someone!!!  Ask me about it later in the semester to make sure I’m doing it!

Stop:  Worrying about little details that won’t matter…  I need to focus on enjoying my students, laughing more in class and providing opportunities for my students to think and enjoy learning in our classroom.

Continue:  Using my student organizer which helps me keep integrity toward our  department’s common curriculum  and providing students with a structure to assess their own learning…


But also be okay and confident with using ideas I know engage students like  3-ACTS, various problem solving,,,, data collection tasks.

I need to stop trying to go by the book, if I have an “0ld task” that works, then I should use it.  I spent many, many hours years ago aligning our units with a colleague when CCSS first made its debut.  It was quality work, we invested a lot of effort into them and and I plan to pull those out and continue using them.  This particular unit felt very contrived and forced.  Its okay if you need a textbook to guide your planning – I’m not knocking it if that’s the case, but for me, I want the flow of the unit to feel more natural, intuitive for my students.

Proud to be a Laker… #MTBoS12days


There are countless activities our RCHS students participate in from volunteering at the Annual Food Drive/Delivery on Christmas Eve, donating, wrapping and distributing toys at a local missions, collecting and distributing coats/blankets in the Warm Hearts drive… but I choose to share about this one because its a group my daughter may be a part of soon…

She has this new love for band, she’s in percussion with beginning band this year…her Christmas wish list… purple drumsticks and a music stand.  We traveled to several marching competitions this fall and she sat, watching each movement – picking up on details I would never have seen.  Very proud of our students as they finished 3rd at state!  Their hard work, dedication rewarded.


While at the competitions, she got to experience “The Crazy Band Lady” and her shouts as the band entered the field “Rock my face off, Laker Band!”  I was in band with M many, many years ago.  When called to attention, no one had better posture or more pride.  This many years later, she is our band’s biggest fan and supporter.

Because of illness, M was not able to attend the band’s annual Christmas Concert.  And only days later, a house fire devastated her family.  I was sitting in the workroom a couple of days later when I overheard our band director speaking to our administrator.  I am glad my child looks up to this teacher as a mentor – someone who sees beyond themselves, their own needs to reach out to others in our community.  Someone who instills positive values in his students.  They were making plans to collect items needed and donations to help M.

The final day of school before Christmas Break, all band students were called out of class.  They loaded buses with instruments and music stands in hand…  Marching up the street to take their Christmas Concert and donations to M and her family.  And hugs for everyone…

M’s post: You all are the most amazing group of talent, parents, boosters, and staff!!!!! I could NEVER EVER show or tell you just how much that meant to me. I love you all so much it hurts. ‪#‎OfficiallyFaceless‬

Watching the videos from that day, listening to students recollections, reading comments from our community and seeing this show of love and kindness highlighted in our local media – makes me proud.  We need to model what we wish to see in the world…



Books: Past, Present, Future #MTBoS12Days


Hmmmm.  I’m constantly reading on down time.  A few years ago, I felt it was important for me to read if it was something I wanted to instill in my students.  I used to post outside my door what I was currently reading, I need to start doing that again.  I still include my current reading on my signature on my emails.   I couldn’t really tell you what fiction I read, but every night that’s my cool-down before drifting off to sleep.  I enjoy light, non-thinking reading for that time of day.

Professional reading


A book I’ve read – last summer I had the opportunity to see John Antonetti speak.  Very entertaining, informative and offered great ideas to challenge the way I plan.  I picked up his book 17,000 Classroom Visits Can’t be Wrong.  Its a quick read and filled with practical tips on ways to engage students.

A book I’m reading – about 15 years ago, I was fortunate to see David Sousa present at a G/T conference on How the Brain Learns.  Wow.  Such great information that can be applied to every classroom.  I read some of @jgough‘s posts this fall on Brain Friendly Assessments and ordered the book.  I’m only in the 3rd chapter – end of semester and midterms got in my way, but my goal is to have it completed before returning from Christmas Break.

Books I want to read – there are so many, but 2 in my near future…  Embedding Formative Assessments by Wiliam.  Several summers ago, I participated in two different book chats with Embedded Formative Assessment and looking forward to the illustrations and ways to adjust my classroom practices in his newest book.

The other book I hope to read, very short, is The Fred Factor by Mark Sandborn.  I am unsure where I heard this book mentioned but it stuck with me and I quickly recognized it when I ran across the title again and ordered it.  A quote from Abraham Lincoln, “Whatever you are, be a good one” is at the beginning of one chapter.  I think it will be  quick read that can have a positive impact on me and my classroom.