Sunday, December 29, 2013


Oh how I've needed this winter break!  As the days of luxury draw to a close I would like to write about the wonderful discovery I have made over this holiday vacation.
I am more than a middle school math teacher!  I worked so hard for this career, starting when I was 35 years old with a 6 year old and a newborn baby. After 20 years of secretarial and retail jobs I decided I wanted more and went after it!  My goal for so long has been to be a great teacher and you know what it is a HARD goal!  Am I giving up?  Heck no, but I think I am starting to realize that in order to be a good teacher I have to be more than a teacher, I have to be me.  

I am also realizing that I need fitness,exercise and clean eating in my life.  Is it natural, nope I am and am surrounded by junk food junkies, but I was looking back on photos from facebook and my computer and I am much happier when I am involved in the bodybuilding lifestyle.  So although I will feel like the biggest poser alive, I am starting fresh on New Years Day and will get back to eating clean and lifting heavy.

Finally, since I've gotten sick over the holidays and let my house fall into shambles, I've decided I need to nurture my home more.  I've never been a suzy homemaker, but I've realized that I have to make our home more "homey" and represent our family values and taste.  I think the 10 year old is old enough to keep his legos contained to his room so I may have more freedom with this.  Although I still don't know where that $400 Lego Death Star is going to live! It is massive!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

December already!!

I have no clue as to where November went!  It flew by and I think it has to do with the fact that my daughter needs to start driving lessons in order to get 6 hours logged before 1/26 which is when she will turn 16.5! (16.5 is when she can get her permit with the 6 hours of driving school logged and be on target to get her licence at 17)  I cannot believe I have a daughter old enough to start driving... anyhoo

I have not been happy with the way the school year started off and has progressed.  Since we adopted a new textbook series this year, I decided to follow the program to the letter (which means a lot of direct instruction), but its not going well.  When I asked the students for feedback right before the break it turns out the biggest things I can do to help them is to slow down and provide more written notes.  DUH! I'm going back to my videos!!  I've decided to flip again, this way kids can write down notes at their own pace. I have two daily models that I will be using starting next week and they are problem solving and stations. So after they get their lesson via video we will do stations based on an "entrance ticket" based off the video.  Those who "get it" get to work, those who don't get a reteach.  Stations I am considering are of course the reteach and then an INB station where they make something for their notebook.  Then when we switch, the "reteach" group goes to INB and the INB group goes to practice sets.  One more switch gets the INB'ers to practice sets and the practice set either to enrichment or computer practice. In an average class, that means 15 minutes per station with 5 minutes dedicated to the entrance ticket/sorting.  The thing I will have to work on is how to separate my stations.  My room is TINY and it is really a nightmare getting kids up and switching seats.  I would love to have them stay in their seats and have the stations be what they are working on, not moving from place to place.  The only problem I see is the reteach group.  But then again I can make the other students who are working do so silently, but then I have a problem with placing the INB supplies and computers.  Right now I have two groups of 4 and two groups of 5.  My 7th grade classes I have 18 students and my 8th grade classes have 12 students.
The next day we will stay working on the same objective, but the kids will have problems to solve within their groups and have to present, just like I had planned my math workshops. I feel like after that first day, they should all be in a better place to problem solve.

That's where I am so far.  I am so jealous of bloggers who write a post every day and I hope I can get into that habit.  It seems that when things are not going well, I don't blog.  But isn't that the time I should be blogging the most?  By not going well, I mean I don't feel the kids are retaining what I've taught them.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

EdcampNJ 2013

Attended my second Edcamp today and it was awesome!  Besides the fact that it seems to be the only time I catch up with my dear friend from college, the energy of the crowd that attends this is so invigorating!  Hundreds of teachers all convening to improve their practice and increase student learning, it just send chills up my spine!

So I started the day at the Standard Based Grading session with Kristina Nicosia @kmsusca, and let me tell you, AMAZING is just an understatement!  I just sat there nodding my head in agreement after everything she said.  I've always been "afraid" to think too deeply about SBG because I knew that it makes such logical sense and that it will be so hard to implement, but once I started thinking about it, I couldn't keep doing what I'm doing. Get it?  Well that's where I am now.  It can't be unheard.  I have to somehow find a way to move towards this.  Everything I do now with homework, quizzes, tests, its just crap.  I've given two quizzes this past week that I can't even count because they just aren't getting it.  It's hard stuff, multi-step equations with fractional terms and negatives etc,  I am pushing these kids so hard and they are doing pretty good, they just haven't mastered it yet, but they are on their way.  Do I have to punish them because they are not getting it in my pacing schedule?  ugh!!!  So many things that were said in the session just have my mind going on overdrive.  So my research and focus will be on how to make this work for me and my students.

Next I ended up at the Technology tips and tricks for aspiring/novice teachers and administrators given by Jay Eitner, @ISuperEit.  Well, most of the stuff I heard of before, but Jay was a great presenter, and he told us about a really great new website for sharing teaching resources  I can't wait to get my SMID number so I can register!  

The afternoon sessions I attended were Assessments that Don't Suck! and Using Assessments to differentiate using Nutmeg Education.  
The Assessments session was jammed packed!  Learned about some really cool sites, like and RSA videos.  Nutmeg Education is pretty cool, just started checking it out about a week ago. They are only two months old so there are some bugs that need fixing, but its pretty much a way to keep track of assessments and then recommend remediation if needed.

Another thing I learned about from Edcamp is this new website  Still investigating it, but they had a scavenger hunt game for the day that was fun to play along with.  

I completely love Edcamps and wish they were held more than once a year!  Only bummer was that I didn't win a prize this year!  Last year I got a cool T-shirt.   Maybe next year!  They've already announced the date 11/22/14!! Can't wait!!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Integer Tug O' War and K-W-C for the Win!

This week was very interesting with a mix of good and bad.
So I'll start with a problem I had on Friday.  My 7th grade class (the one with 10 IEPs students out 18 total) have been struggling with addition and subtraction of signed numbers.  I've tried two sided counters, number lines, and anchor charts hanging on the wall.  I then remembered a really cool thing I saw a long time ago I don't remember where, called Integer Tug'O War.  So I planned this great lesson around it and thought this would be the way to really help them retain the rules.  I shared with the spec.ed teacher and RTI teacher who both teach in my room.  They agreed that this just might be the trick!  So here's how it goes: I showed them a picture of kids playing tug'o war, it was only one side and you could tell that side was going to win.  I asked them a bunch of questions leading them to say that the team was going to win and probably because they were bigger, stronger, etc.  I asked them if the rules about an even number of kids on each team didn't matter what might you think about the winning team?-They had more players.  Ok, so with that I showed them this:
I started with something easy like -7 + 5 and asked what team would 7 play on? They all agreed "Team Negative!" and what team is 5 on?  "Team Positive!"  Who wins?  They were really into it and shouted out "Team Negative!" I asked them how did you know?  They said because it is 2 bigger!  Yay!!!!  So the answer is -2.  We did 2 more examples and it was awesome.  Then I put up 4-10 and asked if we could still play tug o' war addition.  At first they said no because it was subtraction and then they realized they could change it to addition (yay! again!!)  At this point they were still good, we did a few more subtraction problems.  Then I put up something like this -10 + 31 -26.  They really liked this because even the kids who were not struggling so much had difficulty with problems like this.  So here is where it turned bad.  I asked the kids if they thought this would work with fractions and decimals also and they all agreed that this method would help them remember the rules.  So I gave them a mixed worksheet  to practice and we got to work on it, the three of us circling around the room checking and helping as needed.  Well, one of the students was still having a little trouble, so the other teacher made an announcement to the class.  She said "If you feel comfortable doing the problems the other way you are used to, then just that.  This is just an option for those who didn't get it"  Well.... wouldn't you know most of them stopped doing what worked! I did an exit ticket and the students who shut down after her announcement did not get the answers correct. I was so upset and I did mention it to her.  I really love this other teacher and we have a great working relationship so this is really not an issue. But I just felt so defeated!  The good thing is that I think this strategy is still going to work with these students.  I know that if I say things like "well who wins tug o' war?" and "can you play the game with that (subtraction)?, that is going to be just enough nudge to get them to the answer.

Now that was an example of good gone bad, next up is bad gone good!!!!
My 8th graders are really good at solving what I call the "plain jane" problems, but they struggle tremendously with word problems. So I am constantly striving to find ways to help them organize their thoughts.  Last year I introduced the K-W-C chart (from Arthur Hyde's Comprehending Math) and they hated it beyond words.  Since I want to focus on problem solving more and more, I am determined to get them to start using this strategy.  It is the first thing I ask them when they are stuck anyway, "what do you know?, What are you trying to find out?, "What do you have to watch out for? etc)  I always tell them to just write that stuff down first since they know I'm going to ask them!  I don't know why they refuse to write these steps down. 
After two disastrous lessons where they had to write equations in one variable I couldn't take it anymore I decided I needed to force them to do the dang K-W-C chart! so I Googled a graphic organizer, found one and tweaked it, ran off some copies and viola! The next class was simply AMAZING!  For some strange reason they didn't even complain about it.  They were actually happy to fill in the information! Kids are soooo weird!  Plus they did some awesome problem solving and they didn't give up!!   Here is my KWC graphic organizer:  I hope that link works! I'm not too experienced with sharing docs!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Week 10 Update

Midweek update since I feel incredibly guilty for ignoring my blog!  I feel like I have nothing "good" to share, but I also know that any reflection is good reflection!

I am excitedly thinking about "flipping" again.  I want my class time filled with "juicy" problems not what I call the Plain Janes.   However, I know my students and if they haven't been exposed to the Plain Janes, they will shut down on me when trying to problem solve.  So... I am going to start filming the basics and having them preview it before class this way when they come in and have to solve the word problem that relates to the concept they will have the confidence to persevere.

Something new I'm thinking about for this year is grabbing students to be the "stars" of the videos.  I will narrate while they write out the problems on the board.  I hate my picture and how I look on film and I think they will LOVE this!  What a great reward for them too.

I filmed my first lesson yesterday and will give it to them tomorrow night.  I haven't got all the permission slips back for Edmodo yet, will get all of the missing ones at Parent Teacher conferences next week, but for now I am going to put the videos up on my school website.  Once we get Edmodo rolling I will have them answer a few questions for homework as well as watch the video.  I am excited about how this is going to work out.

In class I will feel more comfortable about running a "workshop" environment.  My mini-lesson will be focused on connecting the skill to the task.

On another note, I had a student from two years ago come visit me today.  I love this so much!  It amazes me how much they grow up from 8th grade on, and how much they appreciate me now!  LOL!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Scientific Notation and the National Debt

Today was one of those great days I want every day to be like.  We have been working on scientific notation in 8th grade and we've learned to add, subtract, multiply and divide.  I wanted to do an activity to pull it together and let them get some practice with their new skills.  I found some good activities around the web, but nothing truly jumped out at me.  Then I somehow I started thinking about the 17 trillion dollar national debt. I thought this might be something that would catch their attention since they weren't too impressed with bacteria or the distance or mass of planets.  
So we started off with a little video to get an idea about just how much money we're going to be talking about.  I ended up showing them this one: 
I was pretty blown away by the size of the money myself!
When that video was made the total was 16 trillion.  We talked a little about the debt, and they were totally interested. They had a ton of questions!  Mostly asking why do we owe so much, what happens if we don't pay it, will we ever pay it off.  A lot of kids think that if we don't pay it off other countries are either going to bomb us or buy the country and take over.
Then I showed them this on the board: 
I messed up a little because I thought they were born in 2001 but most were born in 2000.  It was close enough though.  I had them think about and write down what they noticed and wondered about the information.  I had questions written down that I wished they would ask but I didn't say anything and let them think.  
My first class totally caught on and asked great questions:
Can we round the number and use scientific notation to make calculations easier?
How much is the debt per person?
How many times greater is the debt today compared to 2001?
What is the difference in the debt between 2013 and 2001?
How much has it grown per year?

We had about 5 good questions on the board and a whole lot of questions that we couldn't answer with the information given.  I starred the good ones and told them to pick three that they would find the answer to by showing their work and explaining what they did.  I am going to give them some more time tomorrow to work on it, but so far the work looks good!

My second and third classes had a little more trouble coming up with the questions, they couldn't get passed trying to find out when it would be paid off or if it could ever be paid off.  I told them they needed to think about questions we could solve in class with the information given.  We are going to work on it some more tomorrow and they will write their final solutions.  

So now what I am thinking is how to do problems like this in the beginning of lessons not just as an assessment.  I would love to introduce topics this way and have them excited to figure out how to solve them.  I think what holds me back is if I give them problems that they don't know how to solve yet they will get frustrated.  However, I need problems like this to get them hooked and focused!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Twitter #MTBoS Mission #2

In the midst of lesson planning hell (another post in the works here) and I've decided to pick up on my #MTBoS missions.
Truthfully, I wasn't going to complete this one.  I have this really weird relationship with Twitter.  I love it for the amazing PD I've gotten from it, yet I feel guilty becuase somtimes I feel like I don't really have anything to contribute.  Well, I guess I didn't until recently.
So let me back up, I am going to admit I didn't follow the formula for the number of activities Justin suggested.  Here is what I actually did:
I did introduce myself using #MTBoS
  1. Hello ! I'm a math teaching momma who loves rock/punk music and pumping iron!
The cool thing was that one of my followers didn't know about the #MTBoS so I was able to share and that made me happy.

Then I found my Twitter history and my first tweet which was on 8/17/11
2011-08-17 14:14:03 +0000 web The countdown is on! Back to school in 11 days...

Pretty cool!  This was before I had my permanent job and I was going back to the district I student taught at as a long term sub.  They offered me a para position right at the same time I got offered my current job in November of that year.  What a strange time that was, I was so unsure about working in a charter school in a really "rough" town that I almost turned it down for a para job!  Now I love my school and my kids and the town I work in that I can't even think of leaving (although $$ wise I really should start looking, as charter schools pay crappy compared to regular public schools.)

Then I tweeted to people I follow and this was where it got uncomfortable!  So, I said "Hi" to Justin since it was his mission :), Heather @Scott22Heather, because she was a mom and taught 8th grade like me and then finally, Robert @RobertKaplinsky since I just found his website and really love the problems on it!

According to the formula I was supposed to do 4, and I only did three unless I stop now and go do another one!  Eh what the heck, why not...
LOL that one was easy peasy!  I opened the #MTBoS feed and retweeted something I found compelling:
There is way more to integers than I ever thought of before. Thanks to for getting my brain in complete overload!
and I picked that one since I am in the middle of my Operations with Rational Numbers unit with my 7th graders!  I can't wait to find out what Kathryn was talking about since I am knee deep in integer operations right now!

Ok so I've competed this mission!  I have discovered the value of twitter to my career a long time ago, so this mission has helped me get a little more involved, which makes me happy!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Day 38: Friday Night Recap

Trying to keep my blog current.  It seems I get caught up and the days just fly by.  When Friday rolls around I have the time and leisure to read and write blogs and twitter, but yet I am exhausted and drained.

This was a good week, math coach came in on Monday and she is always helpful, this time just confirming what I've been thinking.  Time to really switch over to the math workshop model.  I started the year off following the training I got over the summer on our new textbook series Math in Focus, but so far it seems like too much of direct instruction. After the dismal 1st test results I've decided to fully commit to workshop or at least more student problem solving.  So far this week I've been pleased with the way things are going.
Definitely need to blog more often about what is happening in my classroom daily.  Like I said by Friday, my brain is kinda mush.

One thing I can share today though is a new strategy I tried out called TAPPS, Think aloud, partner pair and share.  One student is the problem solver, the other is the listener.  The problem solver has to solve the problem aloud while the listener listens and writes it down.  It is the problem solvers job to make sure the listener understands the problem and how to get the solution.  Then the listener shares with the class or the teacher explaining the steps and answering any questions. If the listener notices a mistake they are not allowed to interrupt with "No! that not how you do it you have to do this..."  The only thing they can do is say things like "I don't understand why did you do that?"  Questions to make the problem solver really reason out why they are doing each step.
It worked great with my students.  A lot of them said they could solve the problem easily but had a hard time explaining it to their partner. That is what really sold me on this,  I am so happy that they are going to have a chance to practice communicating  about math!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Engagement 101

Planned to do a review of multiplying and dividing fractions with my 7th graders.  I knew that they probably needed the review, but I also knew their eyes would glaze over if I threw up some plain old problems on the board to have them solve.
So I found a picture of a Hershy's bar...Not quite ready to let them loose on the picture alone, I gave them the following prompt.
You have 3/4 of your candy bar left when your sister steals 2/9 of it!  How many rectangles did she take?
I gave them 5 min to work alone, 5 to work together and the we shared out.  They gave me multiple ways of finding how much 3/4 of the candy was in rectangles, then found multiple ways of finding how many pieces 2/9 was including multiplying 3/4 x 2/9 which was the original plain old problem in the book!  Then they had to prove that 1/6 was two pieces without the picture.  It was soooo cool!  They were 100% engaged and talking math like little mathematicians!   We spent the whole class doing fraction problems based on the candy bar including division problems that they made up. I was in heaven.
That was my "high" class.  I thought why not give it to my low group and see how it goes.... SO freaking glad I did!  They needed a little more redirection and nudging to the right direction but yet again they really spent most of their time working on the math!  And invested in the problem/solution.

I almost didn't post this because I think its kind of a  "Well duhhhh" observation, but it was really powerful to me to see this in action and how great both classes responded to it.  My goal now is to make sure 80% of my lessons are like this.  I want 100%  but I need to be realistic.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Who Won the Contest?

I am excited to be participating in the Explore the MathTwitterBlogosphere program this year.  I did it last year and it really  showed me how important and useful blogging is!  The reason I joined this year is because I get really lazy about blogging and if I have missions to complete it will keep me focused and I will get some done.  If you are not sure what Explore the MathTwitterblogosphere is, click the link to find out!
The first mission for participants who already have a blog is to write about either one of your favorite open ended/rich problems or something that makes your classroom uniquely your own.
+samjshah who posted the first mission followed the task with a very appropriate rant.  He talked about us teachers who think we have nothing good enough to share.  That is so me!  I couldn't wait to get the first task and write my post, but when I read it my heart sank.  I was sure I had nothing.  I thought to myself, well at least I'm going to get to read a lot of great posts and get some good ideas.  Which i already have!
I mulled over it most of the day and decided that I do have something I can share even though I don't think its really "mathematically rich" especially for the 8th graders I have do it. But it is extremely fun and I get to share my hobby in a mathematical way with my students, who by the end of the year have heard me talk a little bit about it. I do this at the end of the year, after NJAsk testing.  I think its great for showing them math in real life and also a little number sense.  They are so quick to grab calculators that they have a hard time doing simple addition, multiplication, division. 
So we will start with my hobby, Natural Competitive Bodybuilding.  I get a little embarrassed telling people right now since I haven't competed since 2008, right before I started student teaching and have shifted my priorities over to teaching (the sport takes mega amounts of dedication) needless to say I am a lot "fluffier" than your average bodybuilder!  Anyway, I still stay active with the community by tabulating at competitions.  Basically I am the score keeper.  I absolutely love it.  I get to sit at the judges table and until the results are announced I am the only one in the entire venue who knows the winners.  
So I start off by asking students to think about how the winners are determined in various sporting events.  They talk about basketball, baseball, soccer, tennis, hockey, then wrestling, martial arts etc.  We talk about keeping score and the math involved with that.  Then I ask them if they know how bodybuilding competitions are scored.  Most of them think they just pick a winner and that there is no math involved. 
There is some truth to that, I explain that there are 7 judges and what they do is put the contestants in order based on who they think should get first place down to however many contestants there are.   Once all 7 judges have created their list of say 1st place to 5th place, the score sheets have to be combined and a winner must be determined.
I had my friend who promotes a local show send me a set of blank score sheets and tabulation sheet.  For some reason I can only find the tab sheet on my laptop it looks like this:

Next I show them a video of the men's open portion of the competition.  I show them how the judges identify each person by their number on their suit.  They all have their favorites and ask me "who won!?"  I tell them that they are going to figure that out!
I distribute the seven score sheets to the groups.  I have them fill in each judge's score  and show them how we discard the highest and lowest score for each person.  For example, if the first competitor has 1,2,1,1,3,2,1, we cross off a 1st and the 3rd then add up the rest.  So this guy would have a total of 7.  in my organization we tend to have pretty big classes.  Some of the classes are up to 10 competitors!  The person with the lowest score is the 1st place winner and so on.
I tell students that these scores must be added up pretty quickly and they MUST be accurate!  If I make a mistake it could mean the difference of 1st place or 2nd place for a competitor. This show that I was using as an example is also called a "Pro-Qualifier" meaning that the first place winner earns their pro card and can compete in future competitions for prize money instead of just a trophy.  
This was a fun year too, because there were a lot of ties.  As soon as they got to the ties, they wanted to know what to do, so I ask them what do you think we should do?  Each trophy says the place, so you can't have two first place winners, 2nd place winners, etc.  They came up with finding the averages but found that it didn't help.  Next the lined up the two sets of scores and saw who had the most higher places.
The kids are really excited when they see how it turns out and they also see how math plays a big part in it!  After they are done I play the awards ceremony and they see if they are correct.

Finally they beg me all year to show them my competition, so I usually show them my routine from this show

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Need Help Turning a Negative into a Positive

I have so much I want to blog about!  I knew that once school started it would be difficult getting blogs written though.  I am not a writer, so a few times I have written stuff down and then deleted it.  Anyway, my blog today is really important to me and I am going to ask for feedback because I know people read this especially when I link it on G+ and Twitter.

So let me start by saying "I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my kids this year!!!" I always love my kids and I half-jokingly call myself the "Mama Bear" of the school because I do love them all.  However this year there is a certain magical combination of sweet, polite, studious 7th/8th graders that I've never seen before.  (I pray that I do not wake from this beautiful dream LOL)

Now to my dilemma...
My admin did decide to go with ability grouping this year.  I have three 8th grade classes and two 7th grades.  They literally took the NJ Ask scores and divided them up based on high math/low math etc.  We are a small school so our homeroom kids stay with the same group for the whole day.  I now have 2 high 8th grade classes and 1 high 7th grade which are awesome.  But that leaves a low 8th and 7th grade.
The worst thing is that the 8th graders have completely caught on. The low 8th class is so bummed out it is not even funny.  They are so depressed at being what they call the "dumb" class and it breaks my heart.  I've tried to tell them that they are not dumb and at the end of the day they are learning exactly what the other two classes are learning, its just the way I deliver it to them is a little different (which is somewhat true-I do also give them less problems for classwork/homework so we can get through them and go over them)
My 7th grade hasn't really shown any emotion or notice that they are in the lower group, but I'm afraid the other kids might start to say something...the higher group has already noticed they get a little bit more homework.

What I am looking for is some advice on building up their self-esteem and also how can I keep MY expectations high even when I know that it is going to be harder for them to do the more challenging work or have to move slower than the other class?

Basically how do I keep them from falling farther behind when the research tells me this is what will probably happen?  I really want to help these kids beat the odds and succeed even thought they are ability grouped!

On another note, I was able to get two or three "lower scoring kids" in the higher classes since we only have 12 kids in each 8th grade class.  I can't wait to see how much they improve being in those classes!
Any suggestions?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

One Good Thing-Circle Tracker

After my last post about what is working in my classroom, I decided to write a little more about my circle tracker.  Since the MS Math Sunday Funday theme is One Good Thing, it is the perfect thing to write about!

My circle tracker is a spreadsheet that I make for each pretest/chapter.  This example is from the first pretest.  Its kind of blurry but you will get the idea when I explain it.

So the first column on the left I have the skills I am (assessing or teaching.) I just number them to save room, I have a list of what they are in my unit plan.  Then along the top are the students names.  For the pretest, I know which questions match the skills so if they got them right I put the circle with the plus, most of them right but maybe 1 wrong, they get a circle with one line, if they have a clue but got the problems wrong (silly mistakes or whatever) I give them a blank circle.  If they have no clue, its a blank box.  So when I graded the tests, I used a red pen.  The next day, I have stations for them to work at based on what they missed.  They then have new problems to try as a reassessment (those I wrote in pen to the left) and I go through as they work updating my circle tracker.  Those who still struggle, will get pulled for extra help during our last period which is a skill reinforcement period. 
I really like how I can see at a glance if there are any major trouble spots.  For example, after the pretest, I could quickly see that not one student could approximate a square or cube root on the number line, so instead of sending them off to stations, I did a mini lesson on it; that was the third skill down and so far 9 have mastered it, 2 are getting there and only 1 is still struggling.  

During lessons, I start by using this with their independent practice and homework.  It is really nice to keep on my clip board and reminds me to "check in" or confer with everyone.  Plus if I have struggling students I want to refer to our RTI Specialist I have documentation to back it up.
I must admit, I tried using this last year and it was a little overwhelming.  This year, since we are using new textbooks and curriculum mapping it is a lot easier.  I finally feel that it really serves its purpose!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

What's Working and What's Not

Two weeks in and I can really see the things that are working and the things that just aren't going to happen in my classroom.  I am really happy with the way the year has started off and I'm excited to see how my kids do this year.  One of the biggest things I notice is that even though I have ALWAYS had high expectations, this year they seem the highest they have ever been.  I'm not sure why or what changed in me to make this happen, but I like it and the kids seem to be responding!

What's Working
1. So I will start off with the biggest surprise of all (to me) and that is the "whole brain teaching" strategy of "Class, Yes" and the scoreboard.   I am using the Class/Yes, with all classes, but I'm only using the score board with 7th grade.  Always liked the Class/Yes idea for getting their attention because it makes them respond and then be quiet, I've always done the "hands up" for attention and while it works really well for our school, for example when we are in the auditorium or cafeteria, its not so great for the classroom as I was never able to get 100% participation.  With Class/Yes, I am getting that 100%  I also might get into other types of call/response phrases after a while, just because I think its fun and I'm always looking for ways to put fun into my math class!! Here is a list I found on pinterest:
My 7th graders really like the scoreboard and I can do things like give them a frowny point instead of Shhhhing them when they are too loud for example.  That has been great as I teach them my expectations.  Right now there is no prize/consequence with the game but I'm thinking that will be coming soon.

2. Next up is my SWAG sign!  When I notice them starting to drift, daydream, lose focus, etc, I just say "Show me your SWAG" and they all sit up straight no questions asked!  I don't want to jinx myself, but even my tough guys are buying it!  Love it!!!  Sometimes I say "Table 1 sure has SWAG" and they all follow whatever Table 1 is doing or whoever is following the rules.  Another thing I noticed yesterday was that when I taught the procedure for "SWAG" we went through each letter, and I didn't really model the sitting up straight part, just what it didn't look like.  Well I've noticed that when I ask to see their swag some of them are even clasping their hands on the desk, it is too cute and so funny to see these "too cool for school" preteens doing exactly what I want them to do!

3. Something I call the Circle Tracker.  I made a list of the skills that I was looking for in the chapter.  I put it in a spreadsheet with all of their names.While they are working (workshop time) I go around with my clipboard, check certain problems, ask directed questions and get a feel for their mastery of the skill.  If they have no clue, I leave the box blank, sort of get it I put a circle, get maybe one small thing wrong, I put a line through the circle and if they show complete mastery its a plus sign in the circle.   We were required to do this last year and it just seemed overwhelming.  Somehow this year, it just seems like a natural fit, and I think its due to the workshop model I am trying to implement.    I like that the circle tracker gives me a really clear visual as to where the class is.  Yesterday I noticed that only one of my 36 students could approximate a cube or square root on the number line so I focused my mini lesson on that.

4. Math workshop:  I am so glad I read the book over the summer, it is one of those concepts that really changed the way I look at my teaching.   At first I was going to classify this as "Almost working" because it doesn't quite look like the videos of math workshop that I've seen, but then when I went explain what exactly wasn't working yet I realized, its pretty darn close!  I have to work on my timing and I now have two timers, one I use for the kids (this one) and one I wear around my neck (this one).  The timing issue is also because I am just getting to know my students and the new textbook series oh and after transition times, I am only left with about 48 minutes for each class!  It seems that my class right after lunch can be down to 38 minutes-that is just unacceptable and we are working on it. (We are a K-8 school with no bells since we all run on different class times.)  Once we get the timing down things will go a lot smoother.  I am definitely breaking the lessons in to 2-3 days, so that makes it look a tiny bit different too, but still effective for me-I think, since we are still in the middle of only one lesson right now!

What's not really going to work:
Flipping:  I had originally envisioned doing videos for the skills content and then having students work on the juicy problems in class.  This is just not going to happen.  I am able to get the skills taught in the mini lesson and I noticed that each class needs them tweaked a little bit anyway, so my videos would not be effective for everyone.  I will consider sending them to, AFTER I teach them if they are struggling with homework or want more review for tests.

Monday, September 9, 2013

First Week Recap

One of my goals for this year was to blog more, last week was fast and this weekend was just a killer with lesson plans due Monday, our first annual Back to School BBQ (huge success!  Met lots of new parents in a nice "out of school" setting-really helps us to establish a community!) on Saturday and then taking my daughter and her friend to a concert in Philly on Sunday.
So lets recap, last week was great!  I did all of my expectations and procedures teaching just from their observations (I notice) and their questions (I wonder) and from the Post it activity that Sherrie posted about:  I also did the Guess Who game workshop style and it was a hit!  The thing I love about the workshop model is that it actually works really easily. It didn't feel like I was "doing" some special thing.  After our discussion about mistakes and how we learn from them, the students discovered that it is not the actual mistake you learn from but the feedback you get!  I thought that was really cool.
I made sure to focus on how this year we are going to dig deeper into the math and that our focus is not going to be only on getting the correct answer but explaining how we got it.  And on that note I am going to stop.  I am so beat, want to check in on #msmathchat and I want to keep my goal of posting, so if I try to make beautiful epic posts it will not happen!!!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Day 1! Welcome Back Students!

Holy cow am I beat!  I am so exhausted!! Mostly because I have started getting up at 4:30 am to workout.  I really have to push through and stick with this routine, I am consistently gaining 10-15 pounds every year and it needs to stop!

So today was great, the kids are really awesome, both 7th and 8th grade I just love them!  The class periods go FAST!  I am so worried about implementing the workshop model!!  I will do it though!!!  :)

Today we just did a kind of get to know the class/teacher day.  I went with the whole I wonder, I notice? idea and the kids liked it a lot.  It got them involved and I was able to teach some procedures just by giving them answers to what they noticed and wondered!   One of them was my SWAG sign.

I started by asking them if they remembered SLANT (Sit up, lean forward, ask questions, nod, track speaker)  It is a strategy from Teach Like a Champion, that the staff had to read a few years ago.  It was one of those things we were told to implement, but it never "stuck"  I could never get into the practice or routine of saying "I need to see you SLANT!" it always made me think I was asking them to slump over!  So as soon as I mentioned it they groaned.  I explained how even I didn't like it, but that I liked the idea behind it.  That it is just a gentle reminder of how you should be sitting in class, and to focus.  Then I said that what I could get into the habit of saying was "Show me your SWAG" They loved it!  It was great when one or two boys didn't sit up right away and I was able to jokingly say "oh man, so and so doesn't have any SWAG!" They would immediately sit right up!

The other came from the activity of noticing and wondering.  I had them first spend 3 minutes looking around and thinking independently.  When it was time to call them back I told them that in order to get their attention when it was time to regroup I would say "Class" and they would respond "Yes" and be silent.  I've tried class, yes in the past and I couldn't get it to stick because of my classroom neighbor. We have kind of thin walls and he would always yell "Hands Up!" which was his way of quieting and getting the attention.  Well by the second week I was doing the same thing.  Its ok, the kids are supposed to put their hands up and be quiet, but you know some don't put their hands etc and it just kind of gets old.  They loved the Class, Yes and really liked when I changed up the way we said it.  My 8th graders bought right into it and worked hard at getting it right.  My 7th graders also bought into it but were having a little difficulty getting it down as well as the 8th grade so I introduced the Scoreboard! (These are both Whole Brain teaching strategies if you want to look them up)  So now my two 7th grade classes will be battling each other in the scoreboard game!  Never planned on that one but it worked so well!  Not sure what the prize will be, but they didn't seem to care, I'll probably do Battle of the Homeroom points for like some crazy amount like 1000.

Like I said it went fast, I am not really used to these short classes (48 minutes each compared to the 75 I had last year)
Tomorrow I plan on passing out syllabus and do procedure and routines.  I am going to have them start working on community building as well and start off with the Post-it poster activity that I got from Sherrie at

Oh and the other cool thing that I did was wrote a Vision Statement for my classroom!!  Here is our Vision Statement:
We will persevere in problem solving.  We will not fear mistakes but embrace them as opportunities for learning.  We shall achieve the goal of becoming mathematical thinkers.

Monday, September 2, 2013

My First Currently

Wow!  I am finally doing a Currently link up!  I've always liked reading these and thought they looked so cute and creative. I never knew how it worked until I stumbled upon this blog!

  I hope I didn't cheat with the same wanting and needing but they really are one and the same!!

I'm listening to Fall Out Boy and Panic! because I am taking my 16 year old and her friend to the concert on Sunday.  I am super lucky that I like these bands, I don't know what I would do if we didn't like similar types of music!

So The Thinking Blocks website is really  We are using Math in Focus: Singapore math and one of the strategies they use a lot is bar modeling.  This website/app is going to be fantastic in teaching them how to use the bar models!  Oops I did the old the the typo!!

Going crazy trying to figure out how to "teach" kids to have a growth mindset.  I have been searching for youtube videos to play for them, but none seem to be what I'm looking for.

Wanting/needing.  Oh boy this is a big one. It started out as 20 pounds three years ago and has been creeping up ever since.  The sad pathetic thing is that I know exactly what to do and how to do it, yet I do the exact opposite. So I want to do this because I can't stand not fitting into any of my clothes, looking at pictures and not recognizing myself and I need to do this because I can't keep on going the way I am or I will be over 200 pounds and at 5'1" that is not healthy at all.

So the three things I picked for the love yourself spot are to make sure I drink my water (really want to get a gallon in, but I'll start with 100 oz for now.) Pack my meals because if I do that I know I will stay on track and then lastly make sure I spend time with my own two kids each day and just focus on them.  It is easy now that they are older and self sufficient to think that just being in the same room is enough, while I try to grade papers, make up new lessons etc. and really make sure I'm focusing on them.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Back to School-PD Day 4 of 5

Thursday was our last PD day and on Friday we had an optional day to come in and do our room.  Of course most of us were there since we weren't given a whole lot of time this week to do that.
Thursday started off with us going through the results of a climate survey we took last year, which basically said we were unhappy with the hours of the school day (8:00-4:00 which they shortened this year to 3:30) and unhappy with administration.  They said that they are going to work really hard to change those results.
Next we had new student/parent orientation which is always fun, I got to see some of our new students and even some old ones who graduated in the past 2 years.

Finally Thursday afternoon we sat down and sorted out our classes.  Unfortunately, my admin decided that they were going to ability group.  They built in double blocks for struggling students and everything. Sooo I guess we are just going to have to make the best of it.  I have to say I really like the groupings of kids that we made personality wise.  One of the things I love about working at my school is knowing all of the students.  I will have 4 new 8th graders and 6 new 7th graders, but hopefully they will fit right in.

The only other thing I am nervous about besides the ability grouping is that my classes are only going to be 48 minutes long.  On Monday I will get one of my 7th grade classes for a double class, on Wednesday the other 7th grade gets an extra class and on Friday the low level 8th grade gets an extra class. I'm not sure how I will plan these classes yet, I'm thinking the second class will be a big remediation class, maybe doing stations.

Now to the fun stuff, I finally finished my room and I LOVE it!  My room colors are what I call boring beige and puke-y green, so I just love to put as much fun color in as possible.
Here are some pictures then I have to get into some serious planning!  I hope to do another post with my first/day week plans for MS Sunday Funday!

I didn't take a picture of the other wall with the door because that is going to be my Math Word Wall, right now I don't have anything on it!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Back to School-PD Day 3 of 5

Going to my "happy place" in my mind.  Taking deep breaths!

School starts next Wednesday and
1. We don't know our bell schedule yet.
2. We don't have our class lists yet.
3. Our student management system is not finished yet.
4. My 5/6 math teacher didn't agree with the training on Math in Focus and doesn't want to teach the bar method to his students.

I know these are things I can't control, so I'm going to just breathe deep and do what I can do!
Today's PD was simply training on our new math series: Math in Focus: Singapore Math.  I LOVED the trainer she was awesome!  I am really excited to start using the series.  I can totally work it workshop style, just most lessons will be 2 days like I was thinking.
So here is the takeaway from my training today...the goal is to create mathematical thinking!  Yay-love that!
They have thought of everything, as far as pretesting, remediation, transition, IWB lessons, enrichment, etc.

Ok, so here is the only thing I have to work on, there are about 4-5 teaching examples that are meant to be taught "whole group" with guided practice that follows.  It is meant to be taught in chunks in a we do, we do fashion.  I don't think I can throw all 4-5 examples up for a mini lesson and then have them work on the rest.  So that is what I'll be focusing on this week!  Lesson plans!!!

The bar method is really is basically this: it takes some time to get used to and if you are a real algebraic thinker set in procedures it will be really hard (that is why my colleague had such resistance) However, once you "see" it you REALLY see it and understand so much more.

Here is an example of a problem we did and how we did it with bar modeling: (not sure if I remember the exact wording, but this was the basic problem)

Mary cut a string into three pieces.  The shortest and longest piece have a ratio of 2:3.  The third piece was 1 and 3/4 inches shorter than the longest piece.  If the total length was 22 1/4 in. find the lengths of all three pieces.
Pretty cool right?  So this is just supposed to be a strategy something that leads them to understand why we would do: 2x + 3x + (3x-1 3/4) = 22 1/4

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Back to School PD-Day 2 of 5

Whew what a day!  Our school is changing over to PowerSchool so today we had a half day training on the new software.  I am trying to be very positive about everything and I hate to complain, but our database is not set up yet so it is very frustrating, when I learn something new I like to be able to get in there and play with it.  So even though we got to try out a demo account, its not the same.
I am pretty excited about all of the new features and things we will be able to do!  One of the things I want to really try in the future is SBG which is available in the grade book!

Other than that it was more curriculum mapping and that was about it!  Looking forward to Singapore training tomorrow and we even have some yoga scheduled!  Should be interesting!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Back to School-PD Day 1 of 5!

One of my goals for this school year is to blog more often.  I am going to start out with the idea of blogging everyday, even if it is to just recap what happened that day.  I know that I will probably fall off but hopefully I will get 2-3 blogs a week and that would be cool.

Today was our first day back and it is really exciting with all of our new staff.  Everyone seems friendly and ready to go, so that is a nice sign!  Our PD today was Curriculum Mapping.  It seems my school has purchased the Rubicon Atlas software.
Since we got the link last night to sign in I had an idea going into it what it was all about.  Even though it seems like a ton of work, I am really excited to start using it.  My impression is that it is just a fancy way to write unit plans, but to tell you the truth my unit plans have never been as structured as I would like them to be.  With our new math series: Math in Focus and the new CCSS, this is a great time to start really structuring them.
I noticed that the Math in Focus really does a good job breaking down the standards, the content and skills so I'm just going through and plugging in the basics.  The fun part will be adding the juicy stuff to it like fun resources and activities.

We had about an hour or so in our rooms, I am SO glad I came in a few days last week!  I am way ahead of some of the teachers even though I don't feel as prepared as I did last year.  I will end this post with some pics of my room!
This will be my student work board. My daughter made an owl to go on it and it will say "Whoo does good work?  We do!"

Here is my SWAG sign! and where my word wall goes.

My IWB, I usually use the two boards on the sides for info 7th on one and 8th on the other: agenda/homework stuff. The posters at the top are the mathematical practices!
Still have a ways to go, but like I said I feel so much more ahead than if I didn't come in last week!  I will laminate my SWAG sign, and start working on procedures.  I love the beginning of the school year!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Classroom Decorating Day 1

Got into my classroom today to try and work on it.  I've been in for like an hour here and there, but not really doing anything but moving piles around and stuff. I'm at the point where I've accumulated a lot of junk and I have a bit of a hoarder side to me.  Anyway, I brought my gang (son-10, daughter and her friend-16) We made a lot of progress organizing my piles, throwing away a TON of stuff thanks to my daughter's friend and starting to put the room together.

I'm terrible with decorating and when I asked my daughter what I should do she suggested an owl theme since I really like owls (well, mostly hawks, but owls are more scholarly!) She decided to do the one bulletin board at the back of my classroom, this is where I usually put up outstanding work.  Can anyone help me with a title?  I am thinking "Whoo did a great job!" but I don't know if that's too "kiddy"
Here is what she has done so far, we stuck the owl into the tree but he will be perched on a branch she is still making that will go on top of the board.  I love it so far!

Now my next dilemma is my desk area, where that gray filing cabinet is I had a huge locker that I got rid of, but I feel like it all looks so sloppy.  I LOVE the fact that I have shelf space now (that little bookshelf is new and there is a larger wooden one next to it) and I can free up that gray filing cabinet for files.  My question is do you think I NEED to decorate the filing cabinet, desk, and bookshelves with contact paper, or duct tape?  I mean I would love to, but it would be time consuming and I really can't afford to spend too much right now.  Things are still a mess but this is basically the set up it will be for the year, when I say my room is tiny, I mean tiny!  I have to have everything pushed up to the back wall like that to make room for desks!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

2013-2014 Goals

I am linking up again finally with Julie at I Speak Math for a Sunday Funday!!

I am having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that summer is almost over!  Last year I felt so much more prepared with my goals for the upcoming year.  The only thing I wanted to do was to get my NJAsk scores higher.  While they didn't reach the goal I hoped, both the 7th and 8th grade scores did go up by 58%! I'm pretty happy with that!

This year is scary, my principal left, along with 5 other teachers.  I know that so much change in a school can be a bad thing.  I am really hoping that we will get through it and have a good year despite the changes.
In addition to that, we are finally moving fully to common core and got new textbooks: Math in Focus-Singapore Math.  For the past three years I haven't really used a textbook so this should be interesting.

My goals for this year are to incorporate the math workshop model into my lessons. I read this book because  Sherrie at Middle School Math Rules! started a book study blog on it and I was hooked!  I also took (am taking) the How To Learn Math course by Jo Boaler through Stanford University which is wonderful and the two just go together perfectly.  Basically I want to get my kids working on more complex problems and discussing them more.

Over the past two years I've found myself trying to figure out why my kids can't retain what they learned.  The book and the course talk about how when we try to teach kids to memorize procedures they will quickly forget it and we have to get them involved and really owning the math.  This is my goal for this year.
I plan to forget about "the test" and get my kids to learn to think!

My other goal for the year is to blog more often and more mathematically.  Most of the posts I made last year were not very productive and I need to change that!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Reflection Based Planning

There are two full weeks left before I head back to school and its time to start planning.  Right now my head is swimming from all of the things I have learned this summer and I'm not sure where exactly to begin, actually I know bits and pieces but need to put it all together.  I figure that the best thing to do is look at where I've been and where I want to go.

Last summer I discovered flipping and interactive notebooks and implemented them with limited success.

My goal for flipping was to provide a resource for struggling learners to be able to go back and watch the lesson again when needed and to be able to take me home with them since most kids say they "get it in class, but forget when they are alone." I also wanted to stop spending so much time on low level work in class and have students discuss and do more higher order thinking.  What ended up happening is while students copied the notes successfully and did like going back to them, I never properly taught them how to work together in groups and to take responsibility for their learning.  So in the end, I kind of went back to a traditional class.  Moving forward:  I am still going to provide basic skill videos and have them complete the low level problems for homework assignments.  I took a Flipped Classroom online training course over the summer that I really liked, the idea is that you should make one take videos with you in them in order to build relationships.  I made about 20 or so that were "eh" now that I have my vision of paring them down to the basic skills I am going to scrap them and redo them in my classroom.  The majority of the ones I did were out in my garage and the lighting was not so great.  I plan on basically modeling the example problems from the textbook.  This way, if someone can't watch the video, they could actually read the book.  Also, this year I will be using a textbook, last year I did not have one.
As far as teaching them how to work together and take responsibility for their learning...well I am implementing this year the math workshop model and that is going to take a whole lot of teaching!  I will probably make a post about how I am going to this in detail.

My goal with the interactive notebooks was to get students to take better notes, keep their notebook (instead of losing it, having one notebook for multiple subjects, etc) I have to say that only one of my 72 students lost their notebooks last year!   The nice thing too was that she was able to update the new one she got I want to say easily (it was a lot of work to recopy) but at least she was able to do it.  The thing that didn't work for me so well was the foldables.  My students took way too long cutting and gluing and coloring that they didn't focus on the math, we ran out of time, etc.  My desks are horrible to put together so it was awkward having a basket or bucket with the supplies on them so that was a problem as well.

Moving forward:  What really helped them was being taught HOW to keep a notebook.  It wasn't the IMN that was so magical, it was just that I taught them what to do with the notebook. This year I told them to get a 1 inch binder in addition to the composition notebook.  I am still thinking about how I want them to completely use the composition notebook, however, I know that I want them to do a lot of writing/reflecting in it.  The binder will be used for notes (I will do a lot of printed guided note pages) and their work.
Speaking of writing, one of the things I want to accomplish with their journals is having them do a writing assignment-like a mini research paper.  I'm not sure if I will make it once a quarter or only one for the year, but I'm thinking I need to go all in on it using the writing standard from ELA and everything.

That is where I am at for now.  I am going to be using this blog over the next few days to really plan out everything.  I feel like I am so behind compared to last year as to my planning, however, I feel so much more prepared mathematically and as a teacher going into this year thanks to some of the pd I've done this summer!  I am really excited to get started!
Over the next two weeks I need to plan: classroom setup and first week activities!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Books, Books and More Books!

So we are on a little family vaca in Baltimore this weekend.  My daughter turned 16 and didn't want a party, she wanted to visit Edgar Allen Poe's grave site.

 In addition she found a "free" bookstore that she wanted to visit.  It turned out to be the coolest place!  We dropped off a ton of old books that were collecting dust on our shelves and headed in to the "store".

She ended up with about 5 and I found this:

I actually got 4 of those Math on Call books, so that each of my groups can have one for reference :)  Later on we went to the Hardrock cafe and while we waited for our table went over to Barnes and Noble, they were selling the same book for $32 each!!!

I highly recommend The Book Thing if you are in Baltimore, I will definitely like to come back at least once a year or so!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Mistakes Are Okay, Really!

In the How to Learn Math course, one of the big objectives so far is learning how important it is to let kids know that mistakes are good, they are how we learn and make our brain grow.   One of the things I know is that my students are going to have to be shown this.  I can't just tell them and hope that they magically change the way they have thought about math class for most of their life.  So I've been trying to think of how I'm going to do that and of course it will be my daily actions over time that will make this sink in, however, I wanted some way to really put it out there the first week and I think I might have found it!

Somehow the game Guess Who? popped into my head. Its perfect, because you can use all of your WRONG guesses to eliminate characters in order to guess your opponents character.  I don't have the cash to buy 9 sets of the game but I found character sheets that you can print out here.  The way I am going to have them play is each student will have a plastic communicator with a character sheet in it.  They will draw a card, made with the smaller images taped onto an index card (don't know if I have the patience to glue/tape all 9 sets-might just do a few and pass the cards around!) in order to get their character. If you never heard of the game, you ask your opponent questions in order to figure out the character they have, like "is your character a girl?" if they say no, you cross out all of the girls (if yes, you cross out all of the boys.)  You keep going until you've eliminated enough to guess their character.   Here is a rough set I made up already:
the game board

The cards to select the characters
My plan is to start using the workshop model right away.  Usually my first week is dedicated to setting up routines and procedures, so this will fit right in.  Here is what I have so far:
Opening:  Students will do a maze.  This will set up the discussion about using mistakes to find the right path.
  Minilesson: This is when I will explain the game and the rules for playing. I'm not sure if I will talk more about mistakes here, but I know that I want to keep this short: no more than 10 minutes.
Work Time: I plan on giving them about 20-25 minutes to play the game.
Conferring:  This is when I will try to meet with as many as I can and get them to start feeling comfortable with this process.  Maybe ask things about the strategies they are using, if they would take a chance on guessing without asking for clues, etc.
Sharing/Reflection: The most important thing I want them to think about is this- Can you win the game if every question you asked was answered with "No."? Hopefully they will see that yes, the "wrong" questions can lead you to the right answer!  I still have to work on the questions, I know I have to give them a LOT of structure, especially in the beginning of the year!  After discussing, I am also going to have them write about the activity in their notebooks.

I know I need to think more about structuring the sharing/reflection time, this is where my kids are going to need a lot of practice.
I'm still not sure of my schedule yet, we have 50 and 75 minute classes, and ABCD days, so each class gets a different amount of time each day.  I'm still not sure how to plan for this.  Last year was a mess, with one of my 7th grade classes getting almost a whole hour more of class than the other one.  Admin was trying to fix this, but I don't know yet what they did.  I've been thinking of making my daily plans for the 50 minutes and then doing something different for the 25 minutes that a class might get that day.  Any suggestions for this????