First Three Days of Awesome

Whoa! I am EXHAUSTED! Yes, we only had three days this week, but wow! Here are the highlights of the first week.

We completed the name tents (Sara VanDerWerf ) I added additional questions like

  • What’s your walk up song?  I have plans on playing their songs during passing periods as they come into class
  • What are the qualities you would like in a teacher?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What are your strengths that you will be able to use in class?
  • Tell me one good thing about the beginning of school.

I can’t recommend using these enough. They give me insight into my kids and helps me see who follows directions (one student filled out the entire sheet the first day).  I enjoy communicating with everyone. I especially like when they share something with beyond  the I don’t know what to say kind of comments.  One student said that they hoped my reputation as a math teacher is true.  I hope I don’t disappoint him!

We don’t do a LOT of talk about procedures and rules the first days, we incorporate them into our lessons when they are appropriate. We did:

Downloaded apps I want them to use (mostly for homework) another idea I stole from Sara VanDerWerf .

  • Desmos
  • Remind can be used for students to ask a quick question on the homework or what’s coming up (and it looks like I can link the assignment through Google Classroom for students who are going to be absent)
  • Google Classroom
  • Google docs
  • Google Keep – to create lists of things they want to keep track of
  • An additional graphing calculator if they wish (but I think they’ll love Desmos better)
  • Quizziz to their desk top (I have them add the web address to their desktop – it seems to work WAY better than downloading the app (we have a lot of connection issues when students use the app instead of the actual web-address)
  • Photos – take pics of notes or anchor charts we create instead of lugging their spirals back and forth.
  • Calendar – I’m going to show them how to keep track of important dates, upcoming events
  • Reminders

And we did the following activities:

  • Dan Meyer’s Who Am I   Students were given this at the same time as the apps to download for students who did not have a phone or other device.
  •  100 Numbers (Sara VanDerWerf again – if you haven’t read her blog you need to!)
  • Zero to 24 (I think the game might have been called One to Twenty-four and it may be out of production and I added 0 for one of the solutions – students seem to get so freaked out when the solution is a zero.) Students are given 4 numbers and they can use them to create math expressions to equal 1 through 24.  I model a couple of problems to get them started then they work alone for about 2 minutes. Next, I have them work with a partner for another 2 minutes. We talk about what worked better and why. Then they work with their table groups for about 3 minutes.  I display the numbers 0 through 24 and invite students to go to the board and record one of their solutions.  When most of the numbers are displayed we talk about any errors they see and they add a correct solution. Then, we talk about how we made mistakes and it’s okay – we fix them an move on.  I usually add a talk about being a “brain bully” and how we are all respectful of everyone’s work – no snickering, smart-a$$ comments, etc.
  • Ken Ken  I use a notice and wonder routine here with a completed puzzle. Modeled a 3 x 3 and a 4 x 4 multi-operation puzzles then let them loose. They were able to choose 3 x 3, 4 x 4, 5 x 5 and 6 x 6 puzzles.  Most students started on the 3 x 3 puzzles and quickly abandoned them and choose ones that better matched their confidence/challenge levels.
  • A quick round of Skunk when they started dragging (we have double blocked math classes). Skunk gets some movement and blood flowing again. We’ll use this game again when we talk about probability.
  • Two Truths and a Lie about me. Students are invited to create their own Two Truths and a Lie to share with the class over the next few days.

Friday, we started setting up notebooks (spirals, composition books).

In my algebra classes  I gave a pre-test over equations to determine how much review / reteaching I need to do. It looks like we’ll quickly review one-step and two-equations and equations with variables on both side of the equal sign.  Out of 77 students only 1 student remembered how to solve all of these types of equations. I’m sure once we do a quick reteach on the basic algebraic moves, there will be lots of “oh yeah, now I remember” comments.


Reflection on Modifying Problems for Workshop – a PD Session

I presented my part of the district’s PD sessions for secondary math teachers today. It went pretty good – at least people had smiles on their faces and no one walked out (maybe they were being polite).

Aug 101.PNG

(Hmm my principal snapped this while I wasn’t paying attention to her in the room because I was too engaged with my participants.)

The Plan

My session was about how to take textbook problems and make it less sucky interesting for the students to engage with. I set the session up with a Workshop Model Lesson Plan so of course we had to have an IWBAT.


Referenced Dan Meyer’s talk at the 2016 NCTM Annual Meeting (here),  starting the video around 38 minutes until 43 or so minutes.  Three problems to choose from to practice taking away information to increase noticing and wondering. Then referencing Faun Nguyen’s Reversing the Question (here). A little practice.


I had the participants answer the question and come up with some of their own.

Then added we could combine them all and add in a writing component (not for an opening, but definitely as part of classwork/homework or close).

Gave everyone some ideas on who/what to Google for more ideas. LOTS of information in a short 50 minute presentation.

The Reality

The laptop was missing quick time, couldn’t get a borrowed I-pad to connect and there were no speakers (lesson learned/rookie mistake: bring my own stuff). So no video (which I thought was the most powerful aspect for them to hear), so I had to talk about it instead. So, monitored and adjusted discussed and tried the strategies on the PowerPoint and THEN did the practice with the problems.  Some sessions, people jumped right in and did an great job (choose from 6 problems) and had a good discussion. Some sessions needed more scaffolding. So we took the first problem and discussed all the ways we could modify each part of the problem. Again, in one session we only got to the table of Elevations of Atmosphere Layers and Ocean Zones — just like in classes – some groups get farther than others – but it’s all good. Lots of ah-ha moments = a good thing.  I think, judging from participants they really liked the Which One Doesn’t Belong aspect the best.

Lesson learned:  I’ll cut back to 3 sessions (the fourth one wasn’t a good as the first 3).

I attended 2 other sessions on Backwards Planning by friends at Bowie and Mann Middle Schools and a session with my friend Cornia (here) on growth mindset and we looked at a pattern of numbers and found some I hadn’t noticed before.

We have another day with secondary math teachers today (Thursday) to work on common lessons and tests by unit. My group will be working on surface area and volume unit – I’ve got some great resources for us to check out.