Monday, September 4, 2017

Emergency Sub Plans

Thankfully, Financial Math has a SIMS-like program that was purchased by my District for our use.  I have several released to students and when I am absent, I usually have one or more of them available for students to work on.  I grade them once every 9 weeks so student have time to get them completed.  Sometimes, I have a sub planned when they are working on their unit project.  

This is for those true know those that creep in at 3 AM?

In the back of my attendance binder I have three plans ready to use.  I have a note stating where the copies are found and that an answer key is provided.  I found a book that had several thinking skills tasks, like which stick should be moved to create/make_____.  The tasks are organized on a calendar-like format and students show their answer to my Substitute for credit (check on the seating chart).  Most checks gets a surprise/treat at the end of class.  I have sugar free suckers, stickers, and fun pencils.  Seniors really like the suckers and pencils - so it is time to find new stickers.

My second lesson is a group riddle.  They have to use their math skills to solve various problems.  Each groups starts at a different place.  I believe it is from an All Things Algebra activity.  I am writing this at home and my lesson is at work!  It is a round-robin event but I have made enough copies that student groups do not move around the room.  They need to show their answers in a line for my Substitute to check.  Those that finish, get a prize/treat.

My third lesson is a movie.  I know a movie in a math class? Financial math?  I have a list of questions for student to think about as they watch the movie, UP!  They are to wonder how much money they young scout earned selling his product.  They need to predict the cost of the development around the house and the possible price offered for purchasing the house.  They also need to research how many balloons would be needed to lift a house of comparable size.  This are skills they have to research using the internet.  This lesson is obviously for more that one day absent.  It is reserved for an emergency that potentially could keep me away for a week.  I will be adding the "what do you notice? what do you wonder? type questions so this lesson is more varied.  I envision it being more of a group work activity.


Organization?  Orderly Chaos is more apt.

I like to know that everything has a place in my room, however, with the number of extras that work their way in, I fight a loosing battle.  To keep student work and materials organized is my primary focus.  I have a student center which has staplers, 3-hole punch, tape, scissors, rulers, graphing calculators, and more.  I periodically look it over and rest it.  Student have elastic closing folders for submitted work - one for each class - and a set of stacking trays for returned work.  Students are taught if their work is placed on my desk, then I will not grade it.  If you could see my desk, you would understand!  I have been using this system for 10 years and I have yet to loose student work.

Now I try to keep my desk clear, but I have several projects in the works.  Things like field trips, PD, PLC, and lesson plans.  I have found if I put them into folders and into a drawer, I forget to get them done. Why not try a list?  My lists have lists!  Though my desk may look a mess, I know where things are.  I have them prioritized, too.  Sticky notes are my best friend - what to give to students going on a filed trip, what to have signed by admin, what is due soon.  By the end of the year, I have stacks of binders with important papers in them.  It works, but it may not be overly efficient.  The good side is I rarely sit at my desk during class time!  Too much stuff there to help students.

My best addition this year is my cell phone parking lot.  Once placed it is there for the remainder of class.  My seniors are using it more and they are more focused. I don't trip over cords!

Picture two, you can just see my student center in the back corner.

Thursday, August 24, 2017


24 Aug 2017

I have a designated area in my classroom where I keep all student materials - scissors, rulers, markers, colored pencils, tape, glue, etc.  I have mixed seating and wish I could have only tables as I used to keep a tote with "daily used supplies" more accessible.  This student center is also where they will find their submission folders - a single pocket expandable folder.  Each class has one.  I also have a stacking set of trays for returning work.  I am usually great at grading and moving to the return trays but I find I run out of time for actually distributing the graded work! 

I frequently have students on the computer to complete projects.  They are learning to put them away by numbered slot and to use the numbered plug, as well.  By the time my last class uses them, the batteries are near dead if a previous student forgets to plug it in!  I have to check it after each period - but those who are repeat offenders as they are numbered, will get to put all way beginning next week.

My desk is a no-go zone for students. Though it looks like a disaster, I know which stack has which papers.  I periodically clean it up just because it gets to me.  In a day I could have just as many other papers to handle as those my students submit for grading.  Going electronic is a goal for me, but others seem to thwart me at every turn!

I used to color-code everything but I have given up. I have taught too many different subjects and there are just so many colors of files or paper.  I am at the stage where I am using up my "remaining small stacks."  I keep copies for students in a hanging file create and they know they get one free.  Replacements are made in the school library before school, at lunch, or after school.  At the beginning of the year I make extras for the new (15 so far this year!) students who started after our First Day on Aug 4.

Pictures will be here tomorrow - I can't seem to remember to use my phone to get pictures.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Classroom Management OR

Herding goats and sheep?

 This week's prompt is thanks to Ms. Nguyen's post.  Early in my career I was encouraged to use popsicle sticks, write names on board, and proximity.  I found I was always leaving my sticks somewhere in the room and they were not convenient when I needed them; I had five sets.  Students would change them around when I was helping another student.  I felt that writing names on the board was akin to public shaming and I could not support this technique.  Proximity worked until I had five disruptive students in one class!  I was not encouraged to visit another classroom, I wish I had the courage to just go visit a teacher I knew had better management skills than me.  Ms. Nguyen's comment that  I "“add small details” is what [ I ] must do — like practice, fail, practice, fail, shit, practice, shit, fail again — in the classroom!" is so VERY TRUE.   I would add to Ms. Nguyen's list - blog about your struggles and your successes.  These do not need to be public, but it is good to look back and see how your management style has changed over the years.  Sometimes I look back in my old school paper journal to see how I handled a similar situation.  I have also noted which times of the year I seem to experience more management issues - late October, February, and late April.  I know they are difficult times so I try to remember patience and understanding to help us all "survive".

I have struggled with classroom management for the last 25 years.  Not because I have terrible students or uninteresting topics but because I continuously want to be better.  The adage of a great lesson leads to fewer management issues is true for me.  I try to revise and find new ways of teaching students to keep them interested, but there are some topics where I have not found the magic recipe.

What do I think I do well?  I work on classroom routines from day one.  Things like checking the board for the "Do Now" task.  Sometimes this is a list of materials and groups, others it is a conversation starter or traditional math warm-up. I enlist the help of a time-watcher or two to help make sure there is time for clean-up at the end of class.  I teach how to put away our laptops - log-off all websites, shut down (not sign-off), place in #'ed slot and plug-in power chord.  Anytime there is an algorithm for a daily or weekly task, I teach it.  My HS Ss do well with these, though the laptops and restroom procedures get re-taught often!

What I think I do not do well?  I have some lessons that are significantly less fun and interesting - balancing a checkbook or comparing loans.  I hope to use #MTBoS and #finlit to find some interesting, creative, engaging ideas.

How do I deal with management issues?  As I have primarily seniors, I try to have a conversation with them as if I was their boss.  I explain that I have some concerns and I ask them why they are acting out.  I try to understand what is happening - usually not classroom related - and ask if they just need an ear or if they want to brainstorm solutions.  Most of the time, my student is able to return to class and focus on the task.  If I have to talk to that student repeatedly, I let them know that I will need to contact other concerned adults - coaches, parents/guardians, administrator.

A few years ago, I read "Love and Logic" for parents.  I have not read the one for teachers, but I know the techniques work for me in my classroom. 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

24 Anyone?

6 August 2017

I gave up reviewing my syllabus the first day when I talked with my last class one year.  They commented on how they have heard the same rules with various words for six periods.  So I asked them what the rules should be and materials needed for class.  As this took about half the class, I was at a loss for what to do next.  Now I play a game like 24 which has them use their order of operations skills.  As I was reading a YouCubed, I found a variation called Four 4's.  This one challenges students to find as many ways as possible to solve for a number using four 4's and only four 4's.  This year I will begin with 24 and move to four 4's once they get the idea.

As I have difficulty remembering names (26th year teaching 170 plus students), I will have them make a name tent, but with a twist.  At least three letters must be built with something they like.  For Example, I use a book for the letter "O".  I write the title of my most recent read book on it because I like to read.  For the letter "N" I use a spool of thread and needle because I sew.  For the letter "A" I draw a tent and some trees behind it because I like to camp.  I make a new sign for each period each year.  This shows students my limited artistic abilities.  I do require them to use crayons, colored pencils, or markers.

I collect the name tents at the end of each class and I distribute them at the beginning of the next.  As soon as I get their name correct three days in a row, they staple it to my wall.  The first one and the last one in each class gets a treat.  I should note that there is usually a pair of students that I always mix up.  It frustrates me to no end!  I usually end up sitting them together until my brain straightens it out.  These two get a special prize at the end of the year for their patience.  In classes where there are multiples of the same name, I use Mr./Ms. and last names.  Thankfully I have not had the same first and last multiples!

In Entrepreneurship, I will start off with the game "Who Is a Millionaire?"  It starts the conversation about entrepreneurship and possibilities.  Time permitting, they start their name tent.

Edit: photos from today's name tents.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Special Delivery

3 Aug 2017

Today I was called to the office for a special least it was not the Principal's Office, but it was her Administrative Assistant's Office.  Flowers.  Not from my fiance, not from my son.  Flowers as a thank you for teaching summer school.  A family appreciated my work and I inspired their student to do well in Financial Math.  It feels good to have recognition.


Monday, July 31, 2017

31 July 2017

Okay, starting again.  I tried to blog a few years ago, but I found I was not consistent.  I was hesitant to use my personal or work email, and then I realized I could create a new account to use for blogging!  As it is professional but also personal, it works for me.  I thought about a blog when I started in the Twitter world.  I found wonderful resources by teachers who had passion and wanted to journal their journey.  Special thanks to #teach180 and #MTBoS for providing this connection.  Sarah Carter nee Hagan at Math=Love .  Her work lead me to more people and many materials I have used for the last two years.

I have changed subjects, sort of.  I teach Financial Math and Entreneurship now.  There are many teaching resources, but I have not found many that fit my teaching style.  I know I want to stay with interactive notebooks and I want the math practice to be more than just a worksheet or problems out of the book.  I am looking for creative ways to design my own folding handouts that are colorful and still hold a purpose for students to learn.  I hope to take what I have learned and start blogging my journey.

Financial Math - a blending of algebra 2 skills in the context of financial literacy.  We cover the following topics: budgeting, employment basics (methods for being paid and understanding what is on a pay stub), stock market, banking services (checking & savings), automobile ownership, credit & loans, independent living, saving for retirement, & funding post secondary education.  About 50% of my time must be spend in "lab" - meaning not working on worksheets or textbook problems.  I am beginning to teach spreadsheets so students have more open-ended answers.  Lots of ideas and now to start finalizing them!

My new subject is Entrepreneurship.   This class blends business and economics.  Students form teams to select a product to sell to their peers.  While they learn about small business ownership, they also learn the basic principles of economics.  This is a task and I will blog about these experiences later.

If you have ideas or resources for me to read, let me know!