It’s been a while…

It has been a while since my last post, but I have a great excuse…

Calvin and Micah 013

In between the craziness of having a two year old and newborn twins, I have been preparing a ton for the new year, learning all I can about the common core standards and making the transition, and trying to sleep every once in a while, too.  I most likely will continue to take some time off from blogging until the year starts up and my mind becomes less about diapers and more about school, but until then I leave you with this amazingness…



These babies are at the Target $1 spot right now.  Dry- erase pockets.  I am so excited I can’t stand it.  Yes, I made my own with funky duct tape and page protectors last year, but these are must sturdier and nicer.  There is a ton more at the $1 spot that is also worthy of checking out for back to school.

Enjoy the rest of your summer and I will see you in the fall!  I am super excited to Explore the MathTwitterBlogosphere!


And it all makes sense…

I just finished my post about my amazing day doing a Socratic Circle and decided to leave out another detail about why my day was so great, which was a letter I received from a former student thanking me for everything I did for him last year.  Hands down the most amazing and touching letter anyone has ever written to me.  As I pushed the publish button, I see that my last post was post 100.  So I guess everything all came together for me today!  A great lesson, a great affirmation, and a great milestone in the world of blogging for me.

Entering the world of blogging has made such a difference in my teaching and I can’t wait to see where it will take me!

Why I Loved this Week…

My top priority in my class, seriously above teaching the material, is having a well run classroom.  When this happens, the teaching part is insanely easier.  I hate the beginning of the year when everyone is learning procedures and everyone has to ask me how to do things and where things are all of the time.  While the winter blues get us all down, I love this time of year when the kids just “get” it.  They know what I expect coming in to the room, they know what I expect when working, they know what I expect when I am demonstrating something… and I know exactly which student just talked out of turn even though my back was to the class 🙂  This week was ideal for this.  I am teaching area of shapes, and while I completely value mixing things up and having a little variety, the notes that I prepared for this lesson included the same basic set up and materials for each shape.  So while the kids were taking a quick assessment over the previous day’s work, I passed out materials, put my example notebook on the Elmo, and then the kids set up everything as soon as they finished.  And the best part was, I did not tell them to do this!  That is what I love.  Not that kids can follow the instructions when you tell them (we all dream of this happening), but that Ididn’t tell them.  They knew that if I wrote it in my notebook, they needed it in theirs, they knew that if I wrote that title down, they needed to write that title down… So then I was free to do other things rather than sit and explain what I wanted the kids to do next.  Then when everyone was done with the assesment, I gave them a 2 minute warning and everyone was ready to go when I was without me saying a word.  Ahhhh… one of my favorite teaching feelings…

On another note, I was hanging around pinterest last night and I saw something amazing… something pinned from my blog!  Now I know many people have pinned things, and that is the coolest thing EVER.  I can see that people have come to my blog from what others have pinned.  But last night I was on the main page looking at totally random things from strangers… and right in the middle of the crock pot meals and nail polish was a picture from my blog.  So crazy!

And on yet another note, thanks for the continued well wishes for my growing family.  I don’t think I mentioned this before, but we did find out that the twins are both BOYS!  So our 21 month old and I will need to band together as the only girls in the house.  We are beyond thrilled!


After we created the awesome foldable the other day, I had the kids practice actually translating, reflecting, and rotating shapes on the coordinate plane.  As expected since it happens every single year, translations and reflections do not seem to be too difficult, but rotations are a complete mystery to so many students.  I wish I had a magical cure for this.  As I said to my kids, if there was a way that I would teach this better or explain it better, I would!  But this is just something you have to work on and practice.  I feel like so many kids are just looking for the easy solution and when something is hard they give up so easily.  Sigh.  So it was clear after the first day that they would need some more practice, I created another practice page (using the amazing kutasoftware!) and we just did a ton of practice the next day in class.  It was nothing special.  I think bells and whistles are great for many many things, but this was just one thing these kids needed to repeatedly practice on.

One of my students asked me, “how old is this worksheet?”  And I told him, “Well I made it last night when I realized that you guys would need more practice, so about 18 hours old.”  So then he asked me, “Well why would you make something new?  You said you taught this before, right?  Why not just use what you did last year?”  Great question!  So I told him:

I would like to think that I am getting better each year.  While I have taught the same basic concepts every time, when I look at what I did last year, I can always find some way to make it better, more engaging, etc.  I also have different kids each year.  Some kids need more practice on certain things, some don’t. 

I think when I sit back and just take out last year’s worksheet without thinking then I am probably ready to be done teaching.  That being said, I do take a ton of pieces that I have used in the past and move them around and rework them.  Every time I create something, especially huge projects, I think to myself, “How awesome that I won’t have to do all of this stuff again next year!  I will be so relaxed.”  Ha.  I do feel like what I am doing this year is so much more intentional, so I think this may be one of the years that I can actually use a lot more of than other years.

Back to transformations.  I still did not feel as though the kids were where I wanted them to be, and I thought it would help if they actually had something to manipulate.  So I created a project that I will post on more soon as we get into it.  We just started today.  The kids will be creating a design and translating, rotating, and reflecting it around the coordinate plane.  Hopefully doing this with the actual template they are creating and using the exact same shape will help them to understand how they are different and how to do them.

And, yes, my proudest moment was figuring out how to print the coordinate plane on regular graph paper.  And, yes, I know I could have just bought it.  But I already had this paper.


Excuse time…

Well it is finally time to reveal my lame excuse for why my blogging has slowed down…  I don’t share a ton of personal stuff on here, but this is big enough that I feel like I can share it.

My husband and I are pleased to announce that we are pregnant… with TWINS!

Wow, you are thinking, that’s great and all, but why do you think this gives you some sort of pass on blogging and why do I care?  No, this is not an annoucement that my blog is turning into a twin pregnancy mom blog.  It simply turns out that when you are pregnant with twins, you don’t only get twice the babies.  You get twice the nausea, twice the exhaustion… That plus working all day plus a 19 month old at home has left me one tired mess of a person by my daughter’s bedtime, and blogging just hasn’t been possible when I am fighting to keep my eyes open.

The blogging will continue as soon as I get my energy back!  (I predict that to be at least by the time the twins are 3.)

In the meantime, enjoy the questions and comments that my 7th graders came up with when I told them about my babies today:

“Is that why you eat all of the time?”

“You are going to get huge.  Like really huge.”

“Will you name one of the babies after me?”

“Do they both come out at once?”

“What did your husband say?”

“Where do the babies pee?”

“That’s a lot of diapers.”

“Is that why you’ve been wearing sea bands?  Cause you are nervous and they keep you safe?”

“Can I be the godmother?”

“Do you want a c section or a natural birth?”

“Is that why you have been so cranky this week?”

And on that note… This tired momma is going to get some rest!

Oh, Fractions!

We are working on Sarah’s Pre Algebra Road Trip this week.  Students start off by choosing 5 cities to travel to around the US.  They measure the distances, then they use the scale on the map to find the actual distances between the cities.  Because the distances were obviously not whole numbers, the proportions that the kids had to set up involved fractions.  So we needed to do a quick review of how to multiply with fractions.  We began by talking about fraction decimal equivalents.  Since we rounded to the nearest 1/4, this should be easy, right?  Ha.  So I began by asking the world’s most dangerous question. 

“What is 1/4 as a decimal?”

And I get the typical, yet still shocking and absolutely horrifying…

1.4?      0.14?  

No.  No. NO.  NO!

Next came my least favorite thing that students do.  If their first few answers were wrong, let’s just yell out anything!  We must happen upon the right answer eventually, right?

3?  1.5?  6.2?

How do students get to 7th grade having so little knowledge of basic number sense?  I obviously want them to understand how to convert between fractions and decimals, but really my major concern is that students have no idea that 1.4 means 1 whole and part of another.  Which means if it was a mixed number it would still have a 1 as the whole number, then a fraction to represent the part.  So if I just have a fraction, then we must have a 0 in front of the decimal point, because there is not a whole number part.

Let’s fix this, fellow teachers!

Candid Camera

I think today I may just have been on some new hidden camera show designed to put teachers in the most unusual positions and see what they will do.  It will be a huge hit.  Especially with today’s episode.  Here is some of the dialogue:

Me: Everyone turn to this page in your notebook.   Be careful, it is not the next page in your notebook.  That page looks similar, but I want you to turn to the first page we glued in.   It says examples at the top. 

Look around.  Half the class is on the wrong page.

Me: C, H, Q, M, J…- Look at your page.  It is not the page I have on the board.  Does your page say examples at the top?

Students: Why are we on that page?  That’s not the next page in our notebook.

Me: I know, but I want to show you an example before you do the work with your own data.  So turn to the page that says examples at the top…

Me: Now.

Me: C, H, Q… you didn’t turn the page.

Students: But that page says step 3 at the top, we are on step 5.

Me: No, mine says step 5.

Student: It does?

Me: Yes.  So turn to this page.

Student: But it is not the next page in my notebook. 

Me: No, I agree, it is not.  Which I actually already explained.  Turn there anyway.  Ok, so I am going to use this page to explain the problem from my example before you do this with your data from your project…

Student: This is a project?

Me: Sure.

Student: Why do we do projects?

Me: Because I planned to do one.  And guess what, I AM IN CHARGE.

Student: I like projects.

Me: Good.  Now, you are going to write down what I am writing with my data, then do this with your data on the other page.  So here is part 1….

Student: Do we write this down?

Me: Yes.  I just said this.  Write it down.  So we do part one like this…

Student: Do we do this with our data or with your data?

Me: My data.  It is my example.  You will do this with your data in a minute.  Ok, so here is how we do part 1…. (explain it) 

Student: What is this second part for?

Me: Part 2.

Student: When did we do part 2? 

Me: We didn’t.  Which is why my second row is blank.

Student: So we don’t need to do it?

Me: Well, you will need to do it, we just aren’t on part 2 yet, so we haven’t done it.

Student: Oh, so that is where our data goes?

Me: No, your data goes on the other page, this is my example page, so I am using my data.  As an example.

Phone rings.

Me: A- you have an appointment, head down to the office.

Another student: THAT SUCKS!!!! 

Me: Excuse me?  What sucks?

Student: That he has to leave math.  I feel sorry for him. 

Me: Well that is nice, but is there a different word you can use other than “sucks”?

Student: I didn’t yell.

Me: Well you kinda yelled, but my point is that the word sucks isn’t really the most appropriate word to say in the classroom.

Student: That’s a bummer.

Me: Much better.  Ever get the feeling you are on candid camera?

Student: Why is that?

Me: It just feels a bit like someone could be taping this right now and testing me to see my reaction.  Ok, so back to the example…

Student: What’s gibbits?

Me: Uh, excuse me?

Students: You said gibbits.  I don’t know what that is.  So I am asking.

Me: I did not say gibbits.

Student: She said camera.

Student: Oh, ok, camera.  That makes more sense.

Me: Wait.  You misheard camera as gibbits?

Student: Yes….

And it continues.  Unfortunately, this was just a tiny part of my day.  Not at all a bad day, just one where I feel as though I just may have been speaking a totally different language and that is why not one single thing I said was understood by any student today.  There really was a point today when I thought to myself, should I even continue to try?  Or just give up and try again tomorrow. 

On another note, the day ended amazingly, as we Skyped with David J. Smith, the author of If the World Were a Village.  I did a project based on this book and Mr. Smith found it and contacted me.  Skyping with him was so awesome for the kids who were able to come, and they were all so thankful and appreciative when it was done.  So glad that it all went well!

A Day in the Life…

So the math bloggers are taking a day this week to blog about everything we do all day to give others a window into our lives.  I planned on doing this on a day that was busy, but one where I taught something brillant and my students were perfection.  Fate decided otherwise.  So here is a window into one of the least successful days I have had in a long time.  Hope you enjoy 🙂  Looking back when this was finished, it is insanely long.  Sorry.  But it is the truth.

5:30 Alarm goes off.  Shower, start to get ready.

5:55 My 18 month old (A) decides that now is the perfect time to wake up.  I finish getting ready with her hanging onto my legs and wanting me to pick her up the whole time.  I love every minute of it.

6:15 Wrestle A to the floor to get some clothes on her.  She hates anything that requires her to stop moving.  She is on the go all of the time.

6:25 Into the kitchen to make breakfast for us.  A insists on watching me pour the cereal and the milk into her bowl, so I hold herwith one arm and pour with the other.  I am getting very good at this.  Get her in her seat and eating, make myself a bagel.  Sit down to eat the bagel and A decides she wants fruit with her cereal.  Up for the fruit, sit back down.  A has finished the cereal and wants more.  Up for the cereal, sit back down.  Bagel bite count: 1.

6:40 I up the bagel bite count to 2, but give up on the sitting down since I have to put the rest of her lunch into her bag and get everything ready for my husband to take her to daycare.  I normally take her, but I had a doctor’s appointment.  Put her bag, lunch, blanket, and shoes together on the table.  A decides she wants bowl number 3 of cereal, but we are out of time, so  I pack up a bowl, along with an extra cup of milk, into her bag.  I wipe down A and the table. 

6:50 I put my coat on, A runs to me and I pick her up to say goodbye.  She starts trying to convince my husband that she is leaving with me instead of him by saying “BYE!” repeatedly.  When she realizes this won’t work, she resorts to screaming.  I pass off the screaming child, grab my bags, jump into the car and head to the doctor.

6:56 Arrive at the doctor.  It doesn’t open until 7, but I figure being there when the doors open will help me get in and out fast.  It works.

7:10 On the road to work.  Call my mom since she is on the way to her work too and this is one of the best times to chat.

7:25 Arrive at school.  Check email, respond to the one email that needs attention right away.  Print off the standardized test reports for all 7th grade homerooms along with the assignment I made the night before.  Grab the papers that need copying, the 2 papers I need to bring to the office for my days I will be missing soon for a technology conference and a middle school teaching conference, and also the library book I need to return.  Typically, I try to make copies way in advance, but we ran out of paper and were waiting to get it in.

7:30 Enter the copy room to find a line of teachers, decide to run to the office while I wait.  Turn the papers in, return the library book, decide to grab some extra reams of paper to bring down to our wing.

7:35 Back to the copier, pass another teacher who had been in the copy room who tells me that the copier toner is out.  Enter the copy room to find everything I printed is now so light that it is unreadable.  Go back to the office to see if there is more toner.  It is not in the usual area, so I check with the secretary. 

7:40 Back to the copier.  Install the toner, start some of the copies needed for today.  While those are going, head back to my room to reprint the reports and papers I printed.

7:50 Pick up my copies, head back to my room to organize everything.

8:00 Kids come in the building.  I don’t have kids first hour, but I stand in the hall to greet students.

8:05 Change my whiteboard to update today’s information, make sure that all papers are where they need to be for the day.  Some of the posters from our Village projects had fallen down, so I put them back up.  Look through some other proportion lessons to plan what I want to do next week.  Get work together for a student who is suspended for the rest of the week.  Chat with the assistant principal about plans for some recurring behavior issue students.

8:50 Students come in for the next class (homeroom).  I take attendance, go through and check all vocab books to make sure they are finished, check the vocab lesson with the students.  There are 4 students who need to make up a vocab test, so I do that with them.  When they are finished, we talk as a whole group about some announcements and upcoming important dates.  Last week I had them write letters of gratitude to someone in their lives and then give them to those people.  So they kids reported back to me how the letter giving went.  Our student council rep had a survey to give, so we did that which took us to the end of the period.

9:40 Walk a student who has lost hallway privileges to his next class.  Back to my room for the first math class of the day.  Complete our Estimation 180.  Talk to the kids about missing assignments.  Have students glue in notes while I pass back papers.  Go over papers that I passed back.  Go over some common core practice problems. 

Up until this point, this is a typical day.  Nothing out of the ordinary or so bad about this, just busy.  Here is where the real fun starts.

10:10 The lesson I had planned for the day was taken from a website I hadn’t used before, but I had heard amazing things about.  Start the lesson and I hear crickets.  This is by far one of the worst thing I have ever attempted to teach.  It is so bad that I can’t even make the kids finish this horribleness.  So the kids rip these papers out of their notebooks and we do a preview of tomorrow’s lesson instead.

11:00 Homerooms- Same kids as earlier, but different format.  6 students greet me at the door needing to leave and find other classrooms to work with other teachers.  The rest of the students get to work in my room.  I hand my iPad to a student to practice some of the games.  My small group that is supposed to come in during this time never showed up, so I have to go track them down.

11:35 Lunch- walk student from before down to lunch, stop to the bathroom on the way back.  Back to my room to make a phone call.  Try to figure out what to do with my next class being that I can’t do the earlier planned lesson with them.  Go to the room we eat lunch in to gobble down my food in 10 minutes.

12:05 Next math class comes in, same beginning to the previous math class.  Intro the lesson I was planning on teaching tomorrow.  Explain what they need to do, have students get started only to have them all stare at their papers like I gave the instructions in a different language.  Walk around and try to help a few students, but it is clear I need to bring the whole group together.  Get everyone’s attention, go over a few examples from the page.  Look around to see that most of the students haven’t even done the examples I just went over as a whole group.  Walk around to each individual to show them what they need to do while everyone else sits and stares at the ceiling. 

1:25 Let these kids out while trying to plan what to do with the next class being that classes #1 and 2 were major fails.  When all but one student are out, talk to the special ed teacher about what changes can be made for tomorrow to get things back on track.  Student who is still in there is refusing to do what his one on on para is asking him to do, I decide to let that continue in the room to attempt to show him that he doesn’t just get out of doing something because class is over.  Keep my next class in the hallway for the next 10 minutes and talk to them about what we are going to do.  Into the classroom for the same beginning things as the first classes.  Change what I did from class #1 and #2 to attempt to rescue some sort of anything positive from the day.  Feel a minimal amount of success.

2:45 Homerooms again.  First 5 minutes are spent putting out minor fires of where kids need to be and why they need to be there.  Finally get the kids where they need to be and attempt to show a CNN student news episode.  It won’t load.  I tried many many times. 

3:15 Dismissal.  Let the kids go, get my stuff on and hurry outside with my student who can’t be in the halls.  Get him on his way and put out several more fires.  Make sure everyone else is where they need to be.

3:35 Most kids are gone, head inside.

3:45 Pack things up and head to daycare.

4:05 Pick up A, drive home, get her a snack, check on dinner in the crockpot.  Use the bathroom for the second time since school started.

4:45 Get the rest of dinner together.

5:15 A decides she can’t wait for my husband to come home to eat her dinner, so I get her started.  He comes home soon after and we eat.

6:00 Clean everything up from dinner.  Pack my lunch and A’s lunch for tomorrow.  Try to play with A while cleaning up some of the toy explosion.

7:15 A’s bedtime, immediately after I head downstairs to begin working.

8:00  Today’s a bit unusual in that I am spending much more time blogging than I usually do.  Normally it is work the whole time from her bedtime until mine.   I should be done by…

8:30 Back to work to figure out where to head from here being that I did tomorrow’s lesson in one class and it was horrible and the other classes did complete randomness.  Make a plan for how to modify the lesson I had originally expected to do so that it can be worthwhile.

9:45 Pack up my work bag for tomorrow.  Stop at the deep freezer downstairs to pull out what food A will need for lunch and dinner tomorrow (She has major allergies so I make all of her food)  Pick up anything else that wasn’t cleaned up earlier.

10:30 Collapse into bed.


The Moment…

I had it today.

That moment.

That moment we all are waiting for.  The reason we all teach.

When you are working with a student… and… they GET IT.  You can see the connections being made and the (I’ll quote Oprah) ah-ha moment.

Here’s what happened-

A student was working on his proportions for his If the World Were a Village project.  He was doing the part of the project where they convert the numbers from the book out to figure out how many people that would represent in our classroom.

His first answer was 5.67.  He needed help on rounding that number to a whole number, so we went over it.  He seemed to get it, moved on, and I continued to walk around and work with other kids.

His hand went up again.  His second answer was 2.43.  I didn’t remember his first answer, so I was very confused when he said to me, “but the numbers are supposed to go 2, 3, 4.”  We talked more, and at some point I realized that his first answer was 5.67, then his second answer was 2.43, and so he thought that all of the answers had to have consecutive numbers and that answer two was out of order.

All of the consecutive number issues mixed together with the rounding questions, and I had one very confused student on my hands.

Thank goodness these problems were a whole number plus two decimal places because I pulled out the, “Well if you had $2.43 would you be closer to $2 or $3?”  Cue the moment of understanding.

“THAT’S why the first one rounded to 6!! Because $5.67 is closer to $6 than it is to $5.”


Why I love blogging AKA Groups Part 2

I just love this new blogging experience and my love was once again renewed last night when I posted about my problem with the kids being in groups.  Within a few hours, I had 3 detailed, helpful, and thought provoking responses.  Amazing.  Thanks for the help, guys!

I have thought about it a lot throughout my day and I finally get it!  It just took strangers across the internet to make me see what I wasn’t understanding before.  Here is what I am taking away and working with from here:

1. Biggest and most important- if they are given engaging material at the appropriate level with clear directions and support- they will be on task a lot more than if those things aren’t met!  I knew this, of course, but I do think I was trying to squeeze way too much into a shorter amount of time and not explaining to the kids how to do these kind of activities.  I was asking how to get the kids to come to my level when I should have been going to their level first and then building them up to where I want them to be.  I was looking at my problem from the wrong side!  I am going to shorten the activities for the future, make sure they are engaging, and walk them through what they should be doing a lot more until they are ready for me to back off a big.

2. I want to come up with some sort of a reward for the learning they are doing.  Maybe if they all are able to pass the assessment so they can keep each other accountable.  The first time I will be working on this is tomorrow in class when they are doing a review activity for the unit test on Wednesday.  I will let you know what I come up with and how it goes.

3. It is harder this year because it is better teaching.  And doing your best teaching is hard work.  And I will always have students who aren’t where I want them to be academically and behaviorally, but I have to keep working on this since they are doing something that isn’t familiar to them and forcing someone to think who has never had to before is hard work for them too. 

Thank you thank you thank you for reading and supporting me.  You amaze me!