2017-2018 #GOALS #1TMCthing #SUNDAYFUNDAY


NERVES. Anxious.

We have opening day for teachers and open house tomorrow night.  I am always nervous to meet new students and parents.  Scared.  Because I want to be great for them, I want to value their time.  I want them to learn and think and be challenged.  Somewhere in the mix, I want them to at least not *hate* math.

The past couple of years have been, well, not my best.  I chose to disconnect – because things were happening out of my control and I quickly became bitter.  So as not to spread that ugly, contagious monster at school, I added space between myself and most everyone in proximity at school.  I trusted no one.  I gave up.  I walked into my classroom and I left.  It was miserable.   This is not the work life I wanted, but it felt safe to isolate.  It seems selfish looking back now.  But I needed time to heal, forgive.  Sadly, my students did not get the best me and that breaks my heart.  I apologize.


Last year in an effort to dig my way back, my friend and I read a book Choosing Joy (kindle is only $0.99 right now).  Its a 52-week devotional with a 4-page format.  Easy, but challenging.  I was reminded that no matter what, I get to choose.  I plan to pull the book out again this year for frequent reminders.

I almost didn’t attend TMC17.  Even being a veteran, the voices in my head – nearly convinced me I shouldn’t go.  I had submitted my proposal way back when – I wasn’t sure if anything I had to share would benefit anyone.  I have such respect for this community, I didn’t want to waste their time.  My friend, the book fairy said, “But you love math camp.  It re-energizes you.”  She was right.  Its what I needed.  A BIG, jumbo shot of mathy-filled joy to jumpstart this school year.


I had 2 things on my list I wanted to learn more about and experience #talkingpoints and #clotheslinemath.  I’ve dabbled in both, but never saw them completely through for what they can be.  So, my #1TMCthing will be these 2 actually.  I teach Algebra I – basically 3 levels CP using Springboard Curriculum, Algebra I – using our own resources, and Collaborative with Co-Teaching Model.  I am excited to see how each of these routines / tools will play out with all of my students.  My goal to implement each one time in each unit.

This may seem odd, I see both of these supporting my goal of intentional vocabulary / literacy strategies.  Several years ago, I worked hard at implementing ideas with this focus – I need to refine and focus on these as well.


I need to be very intentional about my self-care.  In order to be my best for my family and my students, I need to make better choices for my health and down time.  Ideas:

  • take a 5-10 min brain break to recharge somewhere in the middle of the school
  • read for pleasure throughout the school year.
  • journaling my food.
  • #FitBOS to work towards my activity goals. S/O here to @sarah3martin for always including me in fitbit weekly challenges.  Thank you.

So I will protect my self-care time by including it on my calendar, sadly this gives me permission to do it without guilt.


I have worked very hard for several years learning about formative assessment, questioning and closure activities for reflection.  I intend to continue working to improve these and keep using some that I have found to be very beneficial to my students.  But improving and being more intentional with my follow-up tasks to the formative assessments.

I would also like to continue implementing some of the big ideas from our chat on #Makeitstick a couple of summers ago, that Anna does an amazing job of sharing in her posts and presentations.  Spaced practice, interleaving, being intentional and explicit about retrieval practice.

And I will continue life-lessons in my classroom – that’s what kids will take-a-way in the end.  (If you have questions about this poster, just ask.)

jim carey

here for the kids

When I was younger, I remember wanting to “Be a Barnabas” – yeah. That too.



Bonus Session – Teacher Hacks #TMC17


So about 5 minutes before my afternoon session began, I shared some of my favorites…  Just to help me get calm before the actual session began.

Then Anna tweeted


Several asked me to share, so here goes, even a few ideas I didn’t share during the pre-session.


Index card with stop light colors and a paper clip.  Students can keep these in front pocket of their notebook and can use individually during independent practice and/or quizzes, assessments.  As I walk around the room, this can indicate they need me without raising their hand.  Can also use in place of stop light cups during group work if you have small desks, etc.

#makeitstick suggests retrieval practice – basically a flashcard flip book.  Fold piece of card stock in half, can fit 20-26 index cards inside.  GREAT tool for review, just 5 minutes a day, 5 days a week.  If you use this for a year long or semester long review, students can tape a mid-size manilla envelope into back cover of their notebooks to store.

Magnetic Tape – it was around $5 at walmart, not great with heavy items, but for light weight cardstock or smaller items, perfect.  This particular card set was from Kelly Boles Histogram Buckets! And the accountable talk starters from this post.

Re-purposed Containers…

If you have an activity or set of flashcards, consciously make them the size to fit the Extra  clear box.  Also the Ice Breakers Cubes, these boxes are great for dice, paper clips.  And finally the Crystal Light or other drinks flavors – cover the cylinder with favorite paper and store pens, sharpies, etc.

#pocketphone – I learned about this from some of @suMACzanne’s tweets a while back.  Basically you can hit record and carry your phone around in your pocket for about 10 minutes during your class time.  When you play it back, what is it you are looking/listening for?  Are you concerned with questions / types of questions?  Maybe wait time during student interactions?  Maybe giving concise, clear directions?  Transitions between tasks?

Playback, listen.   Jot notes.  How did it go?  Make plans to adjust, improve whatever your goal may be.  Research, ask for help, work on it.  Then in a couple of weeks, #phonepocket again. Compare / Reflect.  Remember, the goal is to improve, not be perfect.

I love this idea (and have used it several times) because it gives me a different view of my classroom.  It’s un-intrusive, because I am the only one to hear it.  No one has to know, not even the students.  But there is a level of accountability.  I cannot ignore what I hear. Also, Hattie suggestions the influence of microteaching has an effect size of .88.


Microfiber Cloths – to erase dry erase markers.  They wipe away any residue.  When they get gunky, take them home, wash, reuse.  You can find them in household or car cleaning sections.  Watch for sales, shop around.  I got 12 pack $3-4.  I previously cut them into quarters and they work fine.  They did not ravel, but I prefer the larger cloths.


Calendar Numbers – 2 sets to create, then laminate a vertical number line.  This one by my door has been around since 2002ish.  I only used -15 to 15.  But you can often see students looking up to it as they are working.

Feel free to share your hacks!

And One Time at Math Camp… #TMC17


Each year after I leave TMC, I ponder and am always amazed as I realize the theme that ran through our few days together…the similar ideas shared within sessions / key notes / conversations.

connections, relationships, community

mary math

When Mary tweeted this – I immediately wanted to make a poster of Annie’s statement.

But then I thought, TMC is about the relationships, but others think TMC is about math.

Then this convo happened last night / this morning about a weekly blogging initiative…


And @druinok’s last statement – building connections.

In my morning session, #cheezyexeter – I was finally able to experience talking points for what they are.  A structure / routine that creates a space for each student a turn to talk without fear of judgement or interruption as we used NO COMMENT.  With the 3 rounds and each person talking, I was afforded the opportunity to LISTEN, not worrying about jumping in, but knowing my turn would come.  Creating a safe space to talk and listen.


I was challenged by @graceachen’s keynote.  The moment she shared her question to her grandmother – What did you want to be when you grew up?  And her response, Full.  And I knew I had never shared those same experiences.  Her impression left me to ponder more about stereotypes and their origins so I might have better understanding and genuine compassion.

I have cried many times feeling I was not good enough to share – thinking I am the one seen as privileged and there were moments I felt guilty.   I have never walked in many experiences of my students – so what gives me the right to share?   What gives me the right to be in a classroom?  I am grateful for what experiences my parents provided me and the life lessons they instilled.  I should never feel guilty for what they’ve given me.  But I am challenged to create a small space in my classroom of what I want to see in the world.

I am grateful for my friends of MTBoS of whatever you wish to call it – because it has tried my beliefs, tested my faith and helped me realize – I am who I am.  You are who you are.  My experiences have lended to who I have become.

I have never walked through the experiences @veganmathbeagle has so openly shared.  But other experiences in my own life – I have learned – we can never judge because her journey could have just as easily been mine. I am in awe of her vulnerability, so much courage.   I will print this as a daily reminder for my desk…


To me, MTBoS is just another way to connect – Tweeting and/or blogging have given us a vehicle with which we can connect over the math – but the rich conversations that follow allow us to build the relationships that sustain…

And how we can take an idea shared, and make it our own…

hug clip

This quote from @math8_teach’s  afternoon session… I want to hold on to…
What I love most about TMC – we are all different, so many varying beliefs, abilities, experiences, but the same.

I appreciate @algebrasfriend’s statement – its not a clique, they’re just friends.  So true.  These people have become my friends.  And though I may squeal with excitement and a big hug to follow, I look forward to our conversations and new friendships becoming the same.

And finally, one of my favorites from my friend @mathymeg07 and Auggie in Wonder #choosekind .

And One Time at Band Camp…


I had the opportunity this past week to help with alterations for my daughter’s marching band.  It was also the second week of band camp.  As I sat in a back hallway or in the uniform room with an almost closed door, I got to see, well hear actually, former students teach.  

Each on a different path in life, but getting to share their talents as instructors at band camp.

It was obvious they were passionate about what they were teaching.  Three very different students, three very different teachers…  but more alike than different.

1.  They loved their students – they cared about them as people.  And their students knew it.

2.  They loved their content. And their students knew it.

3.  They challenged their students, pushing them just beyond what their students thought they could do.  

4.  They supported and encouraged their students, giving them feedback, direction, and pushing them until they got it right.  Perseverance was both modeled amd instilled.

5.  The analogies they used in their instruction, made the learning feel intuitive.  Constantly connecting it back to something the students already knew.

6.  They recognized when students were on overload.  The story telling for brain breaks allowed a rest to ready them to try again.  

Seeing former students doing something they love reminded me that I still love what I do.  

Looking back, way back… 10 years ago


These past couple of days, I spent some time in my classroom – sorting through old files / purging.  I found there were some things I was sad to run across – wondering – “Why did I give that up?”  Below you will see a cover sheet from nearly 10 years ago of a session I presented in a fall regional conference.

Bell Ringers

A couple of my very favorite bell ringers were Math Dice and Krypto the website in the picture no longer works. I love both of these because they basically review the order of operations without reviewing the order of operations.   There is a level of competition, but also how many different ways can we…  which allows students to keep looking for other solutions.

A quick run down of each – Math Dice, you roll 3 dice and use those 3 digits to create an expression that results in the target determined by rolling the other 2 12-sided dice and multiplying to get the target.  Krypto choosing 5 “cards” 1-26 and students create an expression that results in the target card of 1-26.  I even remember one year having paper crowns from Burger King that the Krypto King/Queen could wear.  It was a great way to get students thinking about numbers.

I shared how we simulated the 2 games with random number generators.

PLAN Practice

Basically we were benchmarking before I had ever heard of benchmarking.  Three times a year our students would take practice plan.  We would look at our entire results and develop a plan to address any concerned areas.  We had a report we sent home to parents after each practice, sharing where students were and what we were doing to help them reach their goals…yep, when I met with my students, I asked them to set their goal for the year.

These gave us a baseline for our 9th graders and allowed us to communicate gap areas with 10th grade teachers, since Kentucky utilized the ePAS system with Explore, PLAN, ACT back then.  And again, 10th grade teachers analzyed those results to help find areas of needed growth before the 11th grade ACT.

Quick Quiz

These 2 question skills quizzes seemed to always be a part of my routine / instruction.  I would typically give them at the end of class, beginning of the next class or while students were independently practicing, I would call them over to my desk individually and have them work a couple of problems for me.  I often mixed students between who I knew was likely having trouble so I could help them catch their misconceptions early on before practicing too much and those who I knew just needed a quick check.


I was ecstatic when I got my first set of clickers.  Ah-mazing!  I will never forget my administrator bringing them in my room apparently another teacher had them and had never even broke the seal on the CDrom.  Heck yeah – I wanted them!  I used them for Daily / HW quizzes.  IF less than 80% of the class were “successful” – I assigned what I called an MP set…More Practice assignment.  4-6 questions short – but hopefully after addressing commonly missed questions, discussing common errors / wrong answer choices, it allowed students to revisit and revise their thinking.  The following day we would have another Daily Quiz and almost always – everyone was where we needed them to be! Formative assessment at its best.


Each student had their name on the card, I could jot quick notes based on student approach / performance, even note days they were absent.  I would try to type in a note on progress reports to reflect student participation.  AND this allowed me to draw names and shuffle during class – calling on every student, everyday.  This was important to me.  I remember once sitting after school one day, looking through my roster.  There was a student who I could not remember interacting with and it bothered me.  I sought out suggestions on how to ensure every student was at least acknowledged every single day.  So important to look them in the eye and let them know you see them and care.

CATS Matrix

Commonwealth Academic (?) Testing System is that what CATS stood for?  I cannot remember, but that is UK’s mascot C-A-T-S!  Anyway, we had a matrix/excel file we could key in student results and it weighted to estimate the student assessment rating.  Once again, we conferenced with students about their performance, discussed areas for growth, revisited some concepts, then reassessed.  Again, asking students to set their own goals.  Well, this was the plan, but as with many initiatives, not everyone follows through.  But for those who did, I observed some strong student growth.

Cool Math

A fun site that had a bit of novelty, but offered immediate feedback on some skills practice.  It was well organized, easy to navigate and with a couple of desktops in the classroom, a great resource to use during station days.

USA Today & Stat Rat

Stat Rat used the USA Today Snapshots to develop the lesson.  We eventually took it a step further, asking students to find their own Snapshots, write a brief summary, but then create questions for their submission.  The attention to detail and informational reading was definitely strengthened through this task.  It was a great resource.


I suppose the purpose of this was me – just reflecting on what I used to do and to realize I wasn’t completely off course.  There were some other tasks inside the presentation packet – maybe I’ll share those another day.

What’s a lesson  / instructional task you have run across recently that is something you used to do?


Looking Back 2016-2017 (Part 2) Class Closure, Verifying Solutions, 3 Things


My original intention with yesterday’s post was to discuss these items, but someone HW / Independent Practice hijacked the post (I have more thoughts to revisit that post soon!).

Class / Lesson Close

As mentioned yesterday, one of my professional growth goals was to improve on lesson and class closure.  I knew I had to become very intentional with it, but how could I hold myself accountable?

As school began, I created daily alarms on my FitBit for 6 minutes prior to the end of each class.  I tried some other times, but the 6 minutes worked best for me – I knew I had 1 minute to wrap up / tie together what we were doing – then allow students to actively reflect on the day / lesson.  I kept the alarms on the entire year – with a brief break when my flex died and I was waiting for my alta to arrive.  I finally deleted the alarms a couple of weeks after the end of the spring semester.

This one simple tool – made such a difference for me.  Yes, there were days – the close did not wrap up as smoothly as I had envisioned, but this is one thing I will definitely continue.  As for the closure tasks I used – anything from an exit slip, a post-it note quiz with stop-light self assessment, reflection on the lesson with choose a sentence to complete: Something I learned…, Something I was reminded of…, Something I realized…; What 2 problems were most challenging?  What questions do you still have?, 2-minute reflection grid, etc.  I will post more ideas on these closure tasks later.

List 3 Things You Notice About the Graph

A habit that began with this task True / False Statements about Graphs, was a win for students.  I continued throughout the semester to have them cover up ANY questions / statements about the given graph and always list at least 3 things they noticed / knew about the graph in a bullet list.  How we shared their noticings varied, but it became automatic for them to jot 3 things in the margins beside any graph prior to jumping in to the question.  Even on the EOC exam, I noticed multiple students jotting things they noticed in the margins, without being instructed to do so.

Verify Your Answer

Years ago, when I used Hands-On Equations System, I found how effective it was for students to substitute their solution back into the equation to check their answer.  Last year, I was reminded of this and I wondered, why / when did I stop doing this?  And I began requiring it again.  Its imperative.  And I continued using it again this past season.

Whether it was a 1-variable equation equation, 2 variable linear equation (x,y) or an inequality statement, students were asked to verify their solution algebraically by substitution.  If nothing else it is a test-tasking strategy they can use on standardized MC tests.  But more importantly, they began to see connections between the equations and comparing the functions related to both sides of the equation.  They began seeing connections with the graphs of those related functions – parallel / same lines with no solutions and identities or the point of intersection.  AND  this extends to all function / equati0n types.

But most importantly, they began supporting their answer with reasoning / evidence of their arrival at a possible solution.  They were verifying their answers – but also that of their peers.

What are some of your non-negotiable structures you have implemented with success in your classroom?

Looking Back 2016-2017 (part 1) Independent Practice


Looking back over the 2016-2017 season.  (T. Kanold referred to the school year as a season…in a recent training).

As I think on the past year, I will admit it was not my best yet. But I did have several areas of growth and also some targets for growth.  I intended this to be a reflection post over the entire year, but it seems it has evolved into a discussion of homework / independent practice…

My professional goal was to be more intentional in lesson / class closure – as not to have the bell ringing, students hurrying out the door as I am yelling do _ #’s on _ page for HW.  As well as trying to be more intentional with assigning independent practice with the idea of lagging.

In two of my classes we utilized Springboard Curriculum.  There was a lot I enjoyed, some things I learned and a few things I will adjust this next season.

For most of the year, I did a fair job of lagging homework in these two sections.  On Thursday / Friday, assignments for the following week were made, based on the lessons we had completed in the current week.  I used the activity practice sets at the end of a lesson provided in the workbook.  This was not the actually mixed practice I was hoping, but springboard does a good job of varied level of questions within their practice sets.  Not too lengthy, some skills, some reasoning, some application/ modeling.  The sets due on Tues – Friday of the following week.

This would allow students to be proactive and work over the weekend, should they have a busy schedule coming up the next week.  When an assignment was due, I would ask them to turn and talk with those in their group, comparing answers.  I walked around the room and made note of those with complete work, also paying attention to the conversations – and allowing me to decide which problems needed some extra attention as a whole class.  I found this structure from @cheesemonkeysf to be quite purposeful.

E shares step 4 as stamping and collecting every two weeks – for what is essentially a 100% effort grade.  Years ago, I used a stamping system.  A dated library stamp, on test days I would collect a crumpled set of assignments, flip through, counting the number of stamps and report a score for homework.

A few years later, I created a “stamp-sheet” on the back of our unit organizer. The front included how big ideas connected back to the unit concept, with a unit schedule, critical vocabulary and our assessment standards.  The back of the page gave students self-assessment skills for focus and an assignment log I included.

IF complete and on time, students received a stamp..IF complete and late, a circled stamp.  As I learned about formative assessment, I attempted to modify the table as a tool for students to track their learning.  Here is an early version of that:

self assessment

I plan to revisit this idea and implement something similar this school year.  I have tried multiple other things in recent years with little success – somewhere along the way, I let students get away with not practicing.  Somehow I need to address HW/practice in the self-assess column with a structure that is efficient and purposeful.


Its imperative for students to get some independent practice.  My intention is to make it purposeful, engaging and non-negotiable.

Dr. Kanold referenced Steve Leinwand’s idea of independent practice as brief,  8-10 problems with 3-5 of  most current, a couple from a previous lesson and finish the set with a spiraling from less current topics / skills.  I attempted this for about 9 weeks in my other classes and then I got “busy” and gave it up-falling back to my “old ways”.  Again, I shall revisit, reflect, refine and re-instate.

I give myself a A-/B+ on the lagging homework, B on giving assignments ahead of time, but need to be more intentional in not allowing students to opt out – I failed that aspect.

I also had 3 other classes not using the Springboard Curriculum that I did a poor job with independent practice outside of class.  I lowered my expectations and failed them miserably here.

So overall a C-.  Some aspects in place but much room for growth.