Thursday, July 31, 2014

Number of the Day - 731

July Blogging Challenge Day 31

The best thing about July is it is a nice long month.  Perfect for the middle of summer break :)  Today is my last post for the July challenge and I am eager to keep on blogging!  Counting this one I had 20 posts which is a record for me in one month!  I am really proud of myself and excited to continue.

I am only slightly panicking about the quickly approaching school year.  I have a very confident and positive outlook, but sometimes I can't help but do a little freak out when I think about how much work I am going to have to do switching to new grade levels!  My plan is to take baby steps and try to accomplish at least one small thing each day.  Maybe this will turn into an August Challenge that I can blog about!

So today I created my daily warm up sheets.  I really want to do something like calendar math/number of the day with 5th grade and I'm thinking it might not be a bad idea for 6th as well.  Here is what I came up with so far.  I would REALLY appreciate feedback on this.  Are they too plain, how would you jazz them up?  Should I use the same questions for both 5th and 6th grade?  Stuff like that.  I plan on  copying them front/back and each student would keep it in their classroom folders.
Oh and my number of the day will be the month and day  (903, 904 and 905 etc.)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

July Blogging Challenge Day 30

Its late.  I have already failed miserably at the July Blogging Challenge.  However, I would call this challenge a huge success!  I have blogged more this month than I would have normally.  I am so thankful for it!  It is my intention to blog continuously through August and then September, October, November, etc...
Right now I am thinking about how excited I am that as of 8/12 I can start setting up my classroom, expect a  lot more posts here.  Plus tomorrow I am going in to work on our new playground!  I love working at a K-8 school!!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Made It Monday

July Blogging Challenge -Day 28

I am easing my way into back to school mode!  Here is a little something I made with my new washi tape.  I am not really a crafty person and I've never made a truly themed classroom, but I really like the "comic book/superhero" theme and I am going to try and do it a little bit in my room.  So here are two of my first little touches. 
I LOVE my pencil sharpener and my kids do too.  The point it makes on pencils have my kids spoiled so much that when theirs gets the tiniest bit dull they want to resharpen.  This year I am going to make sharpening pencils a reward.  Each day the can will start off filled with sharp pencils.  Whenever a student wants/needs to sharpen, they are going to take a sharp pencil out and put their dull pencil in.  At the end of class, I will draw a name of a student who has followed the rules and participated all class to sharpen all of the dulls from that class period.  Not sure exactly how I will do the drawing part, maybe give kids tickets when they are caught doing good, or maybe I will make laminated cards with their names on them and if they break a rule or don't do homework or something I take the card away.  Actually I'd rather reward good behavior than punish bad behavior so I think I'll go with the ticket idea.  Maybe combine the both and if they are caught being good I put their laminated card in the jar!  Okay, yeah that works!

Saturday, July 26, 2014


July Blogging Challenge Day 26

Found these 3 owl pellets in Cape May, NJ last week!
Each one was approx. 7 cm long!
Even though I'm enjoying this I did feel grossed out a few times thinking about how I was playing with owl puke!
Finally got to use this dissection kit I had to buy in college :)
Was hoping to find a skull, but got a lot of cool bones anyway!  Plus two wiry whiskers!  

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Peek into the Not So Distant Future

July Blogging Challenge Day 22

This summer I have been working at one of those chain tutoring/learning centers. The money is horrendous, but its a little extra change for not a lot of work.  Its only 2-3 hours in the evening 3 days a week.  This week though I am working with a brother and sister who just moved into the area every single morning from 9:30 to 12:30.  They are going into 4th and 5th grade and are great kids.  The fun part is I am getting some practice teaching things like multi-digit multiplication and fraction operations. When I agreed to the switch form 7th/8th, I wasn't sure how I would like this grade level but I'm actually enjoying it.  Its also nice to work with younger kids who are excited to learn.  I'm pretty sure my 5th graders will be similar, but I'm thinking the 6th graders are already going to have a little attitude.  But as always I will head into my classroom in September believing I have the best and brightest students any teacher could want!

I am also excited to announce that my school was awarded a Kaboom Playground Grant!  I am going next Wednesday to be a part of the design day and then the playground will be built in October.  I am really excited for our students, they are going to love it!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Friends and Enemies

July Blogging Challenge Day 20

Today I'm going to blog about an idea for an activity I want to try out this year.  First a little disclaimer, I can never think of things myself, everything is always stolen from much better educators!  So I was reading  David Coffey's blog and found this great post about worksheets and in that post he talks about a little twist to make boring worksheets better like asking students to pick 6 problems to solve and then explain why you picked them. After he presented the idea to student teachers they came up with fun stuff like "What items would you assign your best friend?  Your enemy?  Why?"  That is where I got the idea for this activity.

First start off with a boring worksheet.  I have Kutasoft's Pre-Algebra and Algebra 1 worksheet makers that I loved for 7/8, but I think for 5/6 I will use some online worksheet makers more often like

Next students would be asked to pick either 6 items they would assign their friends or 6 items they would assign their enemies and why.  I'm thinking that students will work off of one sheet and record everything on a separate piece of paper.  Then I would have students choose a slip of paper from a jar that is either red or green.  If they pull a green they are a friend and a red would mean they are an enemy.  Then each student would give and get the appropriate problems based on if they are friends or enemies.

While they are working, if an "enemy" gets stuck, they can ask a "friend" for help.  After they have completed the 6 problems, they have the person who gave them the problems correct them.

I'm thinking I would use this activity at a station or center with a group of 4 students.  Still not sure how my centers/stations/math workshop is going to work, but this is one of the activities I will use!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Assessments and Grading

July Blogging Challenge Day 16

I am in the beginning stages of planning for the upcoming school year and one of the things I want to work on is the way I assess and grade students.  So to satisfy my goal of blogging every day in July (already missed 2 oops) I'm going to write a little about some of the things I've been reading and thinking about.
Then to make things even easier for me, the #eduRead article this week was all about grading and quizzing and was awesome!  Check this out now: Why I Stopped Putting Grades on Papers

What I really liked and took away from the article is that I don't have to go full out with SBG and can just work with the quizzes to start and its a way to get my feet wet.  I also love the idea of not putting the grades on the quizzes.  This is more about mindset then sbg, which is another thing I am focusing on in my classroom this year.
So here is what I'm thinking about -making my list of skills and using quizzes and other formative assessments for students to work towards.  I am hoping to not use a ton of paper/pencil quizzes for these formatives and hopefully use conferencing a lot more as in math workshop.  I am not going to use unit or chapter tests, only the 4 benchmark tests that I am required to give.
What I'm not sure about is what I'm putting in my gradebook.  I will use the benchmark as a test grade and since they fall a few weeks before the end of each marking period I can have a retest day on the learning goals that were not mastered.  But I can't just have a test grade as the only grade I give.  I hate the idea of grading homework, 1) this should be practice only 2) its a pain to grade! 3) it can be easily copied, but I know that if I don't my kids won't do it.
I like what I read (I think) on  Jason Buell's blog  (which is an awesome resource no matter what!!) such as assigning the academic work formatives and summatives 90% of the grade and behaviors homework, notebook check 10%  I can see that working for me.  Then do I wonder if I should give the summatives/formatives different weights or use a points scale which I've never done before.
What I need to work on is how to enter a grade for the formatives (that I'm not putting grades on for the students)   I've seen entering the median score but then again I'm not 100% sure I'm going to use a 1-4 scale. Or just grading them out of 100 and letting students and parents know that it can change often as mastery is obtained.

Back to my list of skills, I took a look at the Parcc website and was wondering why I couldn't use a variation of the PLDs?  It seems like everything is just laid out, why not use it?

Wow made my challenge goal for the day with 30 minutes to spare!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Daily Blogging and Planning for 2014-2015

July Blogging Challenge Day 15

Shoo this is hard!  I think its even harder in the summer when there is not the daily interactions and experiences in the classroom to write about.  However, I'm sure my school year excuse would be "there's just no time!"  Also, I've hit that point in the summer where I've let all of the good intentions of getting tons of work done slide by and am in denial that the summer break is half over.

Usually by this time I have a vision of what I want the upcoming year to look like.  I latch on to an idea that I want to try for the year and focus on how I'm going to implement it.  Last year was math workshop and the year before that was flipping and interactive notebooks.  I feel like this year I am going to take the things I've learned from all of these and incorporate everything that worked for me. I guess right now I should be working on that instead of blogging about the standards for 5th grade which wasn't doing much for me.  I'm going to use this blog post to help organize my thoughts and get started.

Flipping/Math Workshop
I plan on recording videos of the concepts for students to use as review and for stations and not for the main delivery of lessons.  Although I may have higher level students start here while I work with small groups. As far as math workshop goes, I am reading Guided Math and it looks a little different than the way Minds on Math workshops worked.  I'm trying to figure out how to use them together.  I know that stations, and teaching small groups is going to be a big part of what I do.

Interactive Notebooks
I feel like I need to get my notebooks started at least for the first unit.  Before I start planning that though I need to work on my assessment plan in order to to determine my units.

 My school has 4 scheduled benchmark testing days per year and I'm thinking of making these my only summative assessments.  So no "chapter tests"  I know I want to do a ton of formative assessing and I need to build my students confidence in their testing abilities.  I've found that my students are terrible test takers.  This also ties in to grading.  I am totally sold on SBG, but I'd have to work it into regular grades/report cards.  I am really clueless as to how to set up my gradebook this year.  Even looking at our grade scale is giving me agita:
97 A+ Superior
93 A Excellent
90 A- good
87 B+ good
83 B good
80 B- high fair
77 C+ Fair
73 C average
70 C- below average
Everything below 70 is unacceptable, even though there are 4 more cut off scores, D+, D, D- and F.

One of the nice things about my school is I feel like I have a little more freedom as to how I use my gradebook, but I want to set it up to be encouraging to students.  The only thing about the grade scale as it is written above that I like is that a 70 C- is below average.  I have a lot of students that think once they have any type of "C" they are good.

I think this is enough to get me started!  Backward design here I come, off to write those benchmarks!

Saturday, July 12, 2014


July Blogging Challenge Day 12

Since I made my bucket list yesterday I've been thinking about how much I love nature.  If I could I would live outdoors.  I would love to have a log cabin in the woods somewhere.  Here are some of the things we've done this weekend so far.  
  1. Blueberry picking at a farm.

Friday, July 11, 2014

#5Things -The Bucket List

July Blogging Challenge-Day 11

Happy Free Slurpee Day!  

For those of you who don't know what that is, its a frozen ice sold at convenience stores called 7-Eleven. So every 7/11 they give away a free Slurpee to each customer.  I got a tasty lemonade flavor and it made my summer.  There is one right down the street from my house and when I was pregnant with my son I craved Coke Slurpees and walked there every single day and got one!

Taking a cue from @druinok, I am also going to blog today about my Bucket List.  This should be pretty interesting for me at least since I've never really thought about what that exactly is!  I am probably not going to put them in any order just as they come to me.

#1-Go cross country skiing.  This is almost a joke in my family because for probably the last 20 years I've been saying I want to do this and just never do.  No reason, other than maybe the expense, but I'm sure if I put my mind to it I could at least try it out inexpensively.  Maybe the other reason is nobody wants to do it with me.  I've got to work on this one.

#2- Hike the entire Appalachian Trail.  I LOVE hiking, camping and nature.  I plan on doing this someday, at least in stages.  Maybe over a few years.  

#3-Get an RV and travel all over the USA.  Hmmm, I think I may be making our empty nest plan here...7 more years to go.

#4-I hate to say this but I do want to compete in bodybuilding one more time before I kick it.  Or maybe compete in a powerlifting contest.

#5-Cruise to Alaska.  Again, nature is my passion.  Whenever I want to go on a cruise, this is the only kind I can imagine and want to do.

I wonder if I did this correctly.  Is a bucket list supposed to be crazy things you want to do, or actually doable stuff?  My list might be too practical because I fully intend to do each of these things without question!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Technology Thursday

July Blogging Challenge Day 10

Wow 10 days in a row. I can't believe it and am happy that I made it this far!  
Today I am going to write about some of the things I've used in my class and like.  Oh and I can't find it right now, but at the end of the year our admin likes to give out little "awards" and I got the "Teacher who is on top of technology" award  :)

#1 So lets start with the Remind, formally Remind 101.  For those of you who don't know, Remind is a website that allows you to send reminder text messages to students/families without having to share cell phone numbers.  It is also a one way service, so they can't text you back. I used it to send out homework and let me tell you, the kids and parents LOVED it.  I had parents begging me to get all of the other teachers to use it too.  I will definitely be using it again this year.

#2 Next is Edmodo.  My kids love Edmodo and so do I.  I stated using it two years ago when I was flipping my notes.  I didn't use it as much last year because I wanted to try out our new textbook the way the lessons were  laid out the first year to get to know it better before flipping.  One thing I know for sure is that I am going to go back using Edmodo this year. The way I do my flip is really just record how to make the foldable or what notes to go into the INBs.  Plus I really like one of the new features they just introduced: Snapshot.  It is a quick way to give a common core assessment.  I tried it out at the end of the year and the reports were really useful.  I can't wait to use it this year for real.  I've archived my classes already so unfortunately I can't share any of the reports. :(

#3 XtraMath-This is a very basic "basic skills" (add, subtract, multiply, divide)  practice site.  It is free, gives good reports and I think it really helps my students in exactly what they need to practice.

#4 Socrative- This is one that I really like, but haven't used to its fullest potential.  We just got new wifi routers in my school about the middle of last year so I just started playing around with stuff like this in class since before the upgrade, it was hard to get all of my students up and running.  Another thing that sort of holds me back on these types of apps is that we are not truly a 1:1 school.  We have 10 iPads for math and science, and a cart for general use with about 20 more I think, and then about 18 laptops, but I have to share with pretty much the whole school.  Still, I like this app and I like using it for reviews more than I like playing PowerPoint Jeopardy games.  They have a game option called Space Race that my students really like.  It also works well for teams, so if i can only get a few of the iPads or laptops it still works.

#5 Thinking Blocks- LOVE LOVE LOVE this app.  I don't think its free anymore, it was for a time, but I do think its free on the browser at Math Playground. Which itself is a great website for math games!  Thinking Blocks is interactive bar modeling.  It has a ton of scaffolding and really teaches the bar model method.  I really liked that I could let kids "play" with it, then after they were done give them a similar problem and have them solve it on paper. It has a great carry over!

Those are my tried and true, but there are others that I am still playing around with that might have potential.

Wizenworld-This is a game that has different levels and a Legend of Zelda type feel to it.  You are on a quest and have to defeat monsters who give you math problems.  Very cute, my  10 year old son likes it, and now that I'm teaching 5/6 it may have more potential for me!

Nearpod-I feel like this is a really good tool, especially since I am going to flip again this year and I feel that it would work good at a station or center if I can only grab a few iPads or laptops. I haven't really used this to the fullest yet either and the only way I've used it was when I bought stuff made by Cathy Yenca (@mathycathy) which I highly recommend!

That's it for now, I'm sure I will have more that I can add to this list after playing around the rest of the summer!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

#eduRead Wednesday!

July Blogging Challenge Day 9

I can tell this is going to become one of my new favorite chats and I am thankful for the "topic" to help make this blogging challenge a little bit easier.

I liked that this week's article, Even Geniuses Work Hard by Carol Dweck, gave us ideas on how we can help our students to develop a growth mindset by creating a growth mindset culture in our classrooms.
I'm pretty sure the ideas are not really new, talk about successful people who didn't start out so successful (Edison, Disney, Einstein, etc), create a goal and a plan on how you will reach it, praise the effort not the answer and showing progress with things like a pre/post test.
The idea that I really liked was grading for growth.  She talked about a school that instead of giving a failing grade, they got marked "Not Yet".  I love this!  I'd also like to take this a step further and for a C grade mark "Almost There!"  I don't like when kids are satisfied with a C grade.  Since I allow students to retake quizzes and tests, I am going to do this.  This way they don't get down on themselves when they see a low score or bad grade.

I'm looking forward to the chat tonight!  If you haven't participated yet there is still time to read the article and join in the chat tonight at 9pm!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Information Overload

July Blogging Challenge Day 8

One of the nice things about summer is I get to spend a little more time reading my Twitter feed, scrolling through Pinterest,  and reading some PD books.  The problem with this is my mind is ready to meltdown right about now!

There are a few stories that I found myself drawn to that really wear me out.  The first one is the anti-charter school movement.  Now, I completely agree with a lot of what the anti-charter people say, however, my school is a charter school and I love it.  We are public, we have to follow all rules and regulations just like any other public school, we can't turn away kids even though we do have a cap on the number of students in our school (we use a lottery system-and I've seen it being drawn...its pretty cool!) and we have special ed students.  We are a small school and we really work together as a big family.   I think we are definitely needed in our community and we serve our community well.

The next is this article which led me to other articles and a lot of nasty racism talk.  This is a tough subject for me.  I am a white teacher in a school with 0% white students.  I don't even want to give an opinion like the ones in the first article because it doesn't seem like there is any valid argument to the the author's statement: "Another irritating argument includes that “it doesn’t matter what color a teacher is, as long as the teacher is good, that’s all that matters.” That is completely missing the point of the importance and benefits of students of color having teachers who look like them (see: Study: Minority students do better under minority teachersWhy students need more Black and Latino teachers). Yes, all teachers regardless of race can be trained to be effective teachers of black students, but black teachers can “be more adept at motivating and engaging students of color.” Additionally, by having students of color see people who look like them in successful positions, it can help prove to them that they can hold such positions too. Also, comments such as “color doesn’t matter,” is possibly one of the most racist statements one could make. By saying, “I don’t see color,” or “color doesn’t matter,” is basically saying “I don’t see your experiences, your stories, your struggles. Those elements of your identity and life don’t matter to me.” Colorblindness is not justice, equality, or being a good teacher. Colorblindness is ignoring the very issues that your students need you to fight against."

However, I know many parents who are white with black kids, either through mixed marriage or adoption, are these people not good parents? Its something I don't get. I want to agree with the statement that if a teacher is a good teacher it doesn't matter what color they are. I know that when I went to high school one of my best and favorite teachers was African American. He had a lot of influence on me even though I didn't look like him! I just knew that he cared about me and my classmates and that was all that mattered. But then again, what do I know, I'm white so my situation is totally different. I just know that I love my students and want them all to succeed. I refuse to believe that I can't help them do that.

Next up is grading. In theory I am 100% for standards based grading. I am not ready to take it on all by myself. I am reading and studying everything I can about it to hopefully start to transition slowly towards it. I've already started last year with giving retakes on all tests and quizzes. Tonight I am going to join in on the Global Math Department's conference Standards Based Grading, Where to Start and How to Go Deeper and hopefully this overloaded brain will get something out of it!

Then I have my books. I've done a few posts on my reading list, but they include real books and ebooks. I have found that I love reading novels and fiction on my Kindle app, but non-fiction, PD type books not so much. Do you feel the same?

I guess that's it, but it is enough to make me feel overwhelmed.  Don't get me wrong I love every minute of it.  I just hope I don't burn out too much before school starts!

Monday, July 7, 2014


July Blogging Challenge-Day 7

Today I read blogs and was very inspired! There are some great things being shared and posted and again I am so grateful to be involved with it.  However, I am pretty exhausted and just can't think of anything good to blog about.  So I will just share some of my purchases from today.  I decided to hit the Office Depot for the penny sale.

I ended up with the index cards, pencil top erasers for a penny each, then some colorful pens (the flairs based on reading the blogs this week!) and some super cool washi tape!  I never bought/used it before, but since I want to do my classroom in a comic book/superhero theme, I figured it will come in handy!!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Standards Sunday

July Blogging Challenge -Day 6

Chapter 2 is titled Whole Number Multiplication and Division and these are the standards it addresses:

Numbers and Operations in Base Ten
Explain patterns in the number of zeros of the product when multiplying a number by powers of 10 , and explain patterns in the placement of the decimal point when a decimal is multiplied or divided by a power of 10.  Use whole number exponents to denote powers of 10.

Fluently multiply multi-digit whole numbers using the standard algorithm.

Find whole-number quotients of whole numbers with up to four-digit dividends and two-digit divisors, using strategies based on place value, the properties of operations, and/or the relationship between multiplication and division.  Illustrate and explain the calculation by using equations, rectangular arrays, and/or area models.

Operations and Algebraic Thinking
Use parentheses, brackets, or braces in numerical expressions, and evaluate expression with these symbols.

Write simple expressions that record calculations with numbers, and interpret numerical expressions without evaluating them.

Generate two numerical patterns using two given rules.  Identify apparent relationships between corresponding terms. Form ordered pairs consisting of corresponding terms from the two patterns and graph the ordered pairs on a coordinate plane.

As I read these standards my mind is flipping through images of foldables I've seen on these topics.  I am so glad I decided to use  ISNs again this year.

Again I get so excited to be going back to basics.  I feel like in 7th/8th the students still struggle with this.   I  wonder what are the reasons for the struggle?  Is it because students don't master the basic multiplication facts in 3rd or 4th grade?  Or do they not get enough practice?  It going to be very interesting to have the time to investigate this. One thing I'm going to do this week is get a head start on my investigating.  My niece and nephew are going to be spending a few hours everyday with us while my sister works, this means I will have a 6th grader, 5th grader and 3rd grader in my house :)  You can bet we are going to be doing some math this week!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Standards Saturday

July Blogging Challenge-Day 5

One of my priorities this summer is to get to know the 5th grade standards inside and out.  I have to really learn the 6th grade standards as well, but they are closer to 7/8 which I already know, so I'm focusing on 5th first.

That being said, I think I will dedicate my Saturday and Sunday posts to exploring these standards!

I like the way our textbook lays out the curriculum, so even though I may not be following it lesson by lesson, I will be using the organizational plan it lays out.  First up in 5th grade is Whole Numbers.  The standard addressed in all 4 lessons of this chapter is:
5.NBT.1- Number and Operations in Base Ten
Understand the place value system.
1. Recognize that in a multi-digit number, a digit in one place represents 10 times as much as it represents in the place to its right and 1/10 of what it represents in the place to its left.

The gist of this chapter is going to be learning to write numbers in standard and word form, reading numbers by periods, learning place value and expanded form, comparing numbers and rounding numbers.

I remember my son struggling with this last year.  I ended up making him a foldable at home for periods that he used when doing his homework. I was happy that he was able to use it in school during classwork.
I can't believe when 7/8th graders can't read bigger numbers.  I know that it makes them feel incompetent as well.  Why is this a skill that doesn't "stick"  This is just another reminder of why I am so excited to be teaching 5th grade this year. The buck stops here, they are not leaving me without this basic knowledge!!

My immediate instinct is to start lesson planning, going through each lesson in the chapter.  However, this year, I really want to embrace backward design and math workshop. What do I want these kids to be able to do after this chapter is done and how can I get them there. What can I get them to create, or what real world product can they make from learning this stuff?  I wish I had the answers right now to blog about, but this is going to be a year that I work very hard for my salary!
I may end up editing this post when I find some answers and as always I would love comments!  I know most of the #MTBoS are higher grades, what would you wish 5/6th grade teachers would do?

Friday, July 4, 2014

July Blogging Challenge #5Things

July Blogging Challenge -Day 4

Have to admit the blogging challenge is hard, especially in summer and I am off. I do not regret starting it though, and one of things I'm enjoying the most is reading all of the other bloggers blogs.

My take on the #5Things will be the 5 things I'm looking forward to this year.

#1.  5th graders!!!  I've only ever taught 7th and 8th graders and maybe I'm being naive, but I'm looking forward to having some sweet little 11 year olds for a change.  Now I'm sure there are some teachers out there laughing hysterically at this, but I can't help but think 11 year old kids have to be a tad bit better than 13 year olds. Its not like I am clueless, I do have a 10 year old son and a 16 year old daughter.  Now I have to admit, I have had the easiest time with my daughter, but even I saw the difference in her attitude during those years.  I've always believed kids lose their mind in 7th grade so I am excited to teach them before that happens.  Although I'm sure my new 6th graders are going to be a handful as well.

#2  Using one of these for my calculators!
Each pocket will be numbered and then I will quickly know who has a calculator and more importantly if they are all back at the end of class.

#3  Longer class periods/a better schedule.  Lots going on here with this one.  First of all last year we cut ourschool day by 1/2 hour, we used to end at 4 and now at 3:30.  We got a new administrative team that decided to take on everything themselves and made the schedule at the last minute without input from the staff and it was horrible. So here are the things that I am hoping will make it better: Last year I taught 7/8 which has 5 classes in total, this year 5/6 which are only 4 classes.  Admin is getting help from our 8th grade Science teacher who is a wiz with scheduling.  They also PROMISED me more math time!  Yay!

#4 Going into this year with experience in a) Singapore Math b) PowerSchool c) Rubicon Atlas   These three things were introduced last year a week before school started.  I don't know about you, but I am a planner and love to learn, but hate being in a sink or swim situation.  That was how I felt about all three of these things last year.  Don't get me wrong, each of these things are really valuable to our school and can make life easier, but I am looking forward to having a clue before school starts!

#5 My comic/superhero themed classroom!  I can't help it I like themes and decorations.  I am excited to incorporate this theme since this is a passion of my entire family.  I'm pretty sure that my kids are going to be comic book artists as a profession.  I'm not even kidding.  Here is one thing I found that I'm sure I'm going to do this year: 
Yeah! Day 4 done!

(LOL count: 0, Exclamation Point count: 9) oops

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Book Post

July Blogging Challenge Day 3

Not feeling this post today, but have nothing else on my mind so I'm going for it.  I really want to push myself to blog everyday.  
Like I said the other day, I love to read and my kids do too. Seriously if you look around my house there are books everywhere.  
These books I picked to highlight are just ones that either I am constantly picking up and rereading/referring to (Mindset, What's Math, Attitude Gap, Minds on Math) or am just reading now for the first time (both Sammons books.)
This post is going to be short because I spilled a beer on my keyboard and now it randomly starts typing +++ and 11111 all by itself!  It is a pain to have to keep fixing it.  Luckily I get my work laptop back on Monday.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Right Amount of Struggle

July Blogging Challenge -Day 2

Yesterday I was excited to read about and join in on @druinok's July blogging challenge and today I am also excited to join in on #eduRead.  I am constantly reading, especially math and math ed books.  Right now I am reading Guided Math and Building Mathematical Comprehension both by Laney Sammons.  I am also reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and my son's summer reading book, Loser by Jerry Spinelli.  Yeah, I love to read.  I especially love reading things and getting to discuss it with other people reading the same thing.  Last summer I participated in a book study organized by Sherrie at Middle School Math Rules! on Wendy Ward Hoffer's Minds on Mathematics: Using Math Workshop to Develop Deep Understanding in Grades 4-8, learned a ton and it really had a positive impact on how I teach.

The article this week is Faster Isn't Smarter: Messages About Math, Teaching, and Learning in the 21st Century by Cathy L. Seeley.  This is an excerpt from the book, and to be honest, I really want to read the whole thing!  The message I took away from the article is similar to everything I've been reading lately, that we don't offer students the opportunity to wrestle with complex mathematical  problems which is needed in order to develop a deep understanding of the concepts we are trying to teach.  It reminds me of when I was trying to learn to drive a car with a manual transmission.  My hubby (then boyfriend) would let me practice  driving his truck in the empty mall parking lot each week, but I just couldn't get it and never felt comfortable on real roads with real traffic.  Then I found a cute little red Toyota pickup truck that I HAD to have.  Only problem was it was a stick.  I bought the truck and that was it.  I had to learn or I couldn't drive it!  Sure enough it only took me about an hour to get it, and I learned to love it.

Back to students and allowing them to struggle, I admit I am guilty when it comes to sometimes swooping in to save the day and thankfully each year I get better and better about not doing this.  I've learned to answer kids questions with questions in order to lead them out of trouble or towards the answer.  One way of doing this is never picking up a pencil at their desk. It's too easy to say "here let me show you" and just doing the work while they watch.

One thing I highlighted in the article is the line "It turns out that offering students a chance to struggle may go hand in hand with motivating them, if we do it right."  My quest is finding out how to do that.  Last year I dabbled with the workshop model, and that is where I had the most problems, my kids didn't seem motivated or interested in solving the problems.  Its finding that "right amount" of struggle and making sure kids have the tools necessary for completing the task that I need to work on.

I think it also take changing students mindsets and ideas about what should be happening in a math class.  I have found that students think they should be able to immediately see the answer to any problem posed in a math class, just like recalling a multiplication fact.  I'll never forget when one student commented after I had just finished modeling a new concept "Mrs. Nehila, I would have never known how to do that without going over it like we just did."  She was so upset with herself until I asked her "Would you feel better if you knew how to do every concept before I taught it?" and she realized that she would be bored.  Kids need to know that not only is it OK to make mistakes, its also OK to not know how to do something before you learn how to do it!

One of my goals this year is to start the year off by not only teaching kids how to work collaboratively, but also HOW to struggle and to work though problems before we get into the curriculum.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

July Blogging Challenge-Day 1

I always read about these blogging challenges and really want to do it, but never follow through.  Being that it is summer break I don't have the usual excuse of "I'm just too busy". So I am going to give it a try and hop on to ST's July challenge

Since one of my downfalls in these challenges is figuring out what to blog about, I am grateful for the idea of prompts and I am going to follow ST's lead and start with Start/Stop/Continue.

3 things to START
Daily Blogging-I know that daily blogging will make me a much better reflective educator.  I love going back and reading my blog posts to see how far I've come, ideas that I had and want to look further into when the time is better and what worked/didn't etc.  Its just when I start I get extremely self conscious, like if anyone reads my blog they are going to think I am a rambling idiot.  Then on the other hand, who cares!  I need to blog for MYSELF anyway.  However, I am hopeful that I will share something that will be useful to someone else, since I have found so much from reading other teacher's blogs, part of the reason I want to blog is to give back a little.

Immersing myself in the 5/6 standards-Since I'm changing grade levels this year, this is a pretty big priority!  I feel the urge to do a lot of prep work over the summer so that I can fully enjoy this new age group.  So much to learn, even though it shouldn't be too scary since I have a 10 year old at home right now.

 Math Club-This is another biggie for me this year.  I registered with MathCounts  last year but didn't really follow through with it other than taking group of students to a local math competition which they absolutely loved.  I am going to give MathCounts another try this year, and I am especially excited because I will be able to work with the 7th and 8th grades as well.

3 things to STOP
LOL and !- One of the first things I think I blogged about was how I was going to try and keep from using these in my blog.  I will not totally eliminate the exclamation point, but I am going to try to limit it in use.  You have no idea how hard it was for me not to use both of these in this paragraph.

Perfectionism-There are so many things I need to do, clean up my diet, workout more consistently, make my house spotless, tutor my son, etc, that I know will be so much more successful if I adopt a "progress not perfection" attitude.  

Wasting time-This is specific for summer.  When I have no structure in my day I am the worst time waster.

3 things to CONTINUE
ISN's- I felt like this should go in the start category, however, I did start them the year before last and just put it on hold last year while we adopted our new textbook series.  I am excited to bring them back again.

Studying Growth Mindset- this started last summer with the How to Teach Math with Jo Boaler course.  I love this so much and can't wait to work with my new students on this. I did a PERTS study and was given assignments to try with my class to encourage growth mindset in my students and I will continue to use these activities along with what I learn from reading this book.

Using Ipads and Laptops-We have laptop carts and access to Ipads and in the past I just haven't used them much because I hate the idea of using technology for the sake of using it.  This year I found some ways to really incorporate them without it feeling weird.  Things like having the students make paper slide videos, math stations where they practice on sites like, etc.

Whew! Day 1 down, wish me luck!