Monday, July 15, 2013

CAMT 2013 - Day 3

Supporting All Learners: Making it Real, Grade 6 - Crystal Munsinger, ESC 4

This session presented a ready to use lesson for sixth grade students on writing equations from problem situations.  It was something I could see myself using in the classroom but very similar to pieces of CSCOPE curriculum I'm currently already using.

Similar lessons could be purchased from Region 4 STAAR Resources.

Power of Personal Learning Networks - Eric Sheninger

Amazing session-  I could not tweet fast enough to keep up.  Thank goodness Todd Nesloney was in the room and tweeing away:

A PLN brings all the best resources from all over the world TO YOU.

PLN puts you in control of your learning... and that learning benefits students.

"My PLN has transformed the teaching and learning culture at my school" - Eric Sheninger

Link from session:

Unlocking Successful Math Apps for Teachers/Students - Kristen Kirby

Top 5 Manipulative Apps-

Algebra Concepts, Number Rods, Equivalence Tiles, Virtual Manipulatives, Hundreds Chart

Top 5 Game Apps-

BrainPop, King of Math, Slice it, Dirt Bike Pro, Pizza 3

Others shared by participants in session-

Lobster Dive, Pearl Diver, Digit Whiz

Flipped Classroom with Ninjas! - Todd Nesloney 

Oh my goodness, amazing presenter, such a fun session, so energizing, lots to think about...

My notes for this session were all over the place.  I didn't want to put my head down long enough to write anything down because I was scared I would miss something.  I cannot imagine the energy in Todd's classroom.

Check out for web 2.0 tools, apps, and more!

Check out for flipped classroom information, tech tools, and Todd's class blog.

Some questions that were in my head that were answered in this session:

  • How do I make flipped classroom work if students don't have computers or access to internet at home?  Allow kids to bring flash drives to store flipped videos if they have a computer but no internet, many students have PS3 or XBOX that allow them to play DVDS so burn flipped lessons onto re-writable DVDs, iPod nano and iTunesU enable students to take videos home without needing a computer or internet connection
  • What about parental support?  Some parents will fight it at first, because it is uncomfortable for them.  Let students train their parents- on both the math and how to use the technology!
  • How do I ensure they actually watched the video?  Todd's students complete WSQ - Watch, summary, question.  Tell me when/where you watched the lesson, summarize the lesson (probably the most difficult for students), write one question you have about the lesson
  • What about students who insist they don't have questions?  If you don't have a question, write down a question that you think someone else may have had- or create a word problem 
The next day in class students get in small groups to discuss WSQ.  They choose their favorite summary and that person stands.  Favorite summaries are shared and hopefully they sound extremely similar...driving points home to the class.  
  • What about students who didn't do it?  They don't participate in class the next day.  They get to watch the video while class is discussing and then spend the rest of class working on worksheets related to the video.  No excuses.  Students who chose not to do the assignment and students who had difficult circumstances that resulted in them missing the assignment have very different conversations with teacher, but both receive same consequence. 
Other things worth noting-
  • Include students in the planning process.  Giving students a voice will change your classroom
  • Leave mistakes in flipped classroom videos.  Encourages kids to take risks and learn from their mistakes.  
  • 3 places Todd goes for project ideas: pinterest, twitter, 
  • During projects, ask students why they did it that way?  Asking why does not mean students are wrong. 

CAMT 2013 - Day 2

Make math a hoot - Teach digital root! - Kathy Collins

A number's digital root is a single digit value obtained by adding the digits of a number repeatedly until you are left with a one digit sum.

Ex)  23 --> 2 + 3 = 5 so 23 has a digital root of 5
85 --> 8 + 5 = 13 --> 1 + 3 = 4 so 85 has a digital root of 4

Kathy Collins, a Kim Sutton Associate, discussed digital root as a way to check divisibility, determine factors of a number, and a method to check whole number computation:

I can see using the digital root when teaching divisibility rules but was not a huge fan of using it to check whole number computation (especially the subtraction).  The multiplication check would be my favorite because there was some fact practice incorporated.

Overall, neat concept, but probably not something that will have a huge place in my classroom.

Teaching Number Sense to iGeneration - Eric Milou

"This session will examine issues about whole numbers and rational numbers and the lack of students' sense making with such numbers.  Participants will be engaged in strategies and activities using technology that can lead to building better number and fraction sense and to consider issues around curricular coherence"

Really fun and engaging speaker.  Emphasized the use of technology.  He started off by stating "Technology = Motivation" which I completely disagree with.  Technology used effectively can absolutely be motivating to students, but simply using technology does not make something engaging.  He did provide ways to use technology in effective, motivating, authentic ways though:  <<  Lessons, Games, Etc.

Seriously- overwhelming amount of resources which I have not even begun to really dig into:

Dan Meyer's 3 Acts

Andrew Stadel 3-Act Math Tasks
Lessons by Kaplinsky

My plan is to organize these resources into the units and sequence I'm required to teach this summer so when I come to a unit, I already have a handful of ways to present problems to students and I don't have to spend tons of time searching.

The TEKS Process Standards: The Best TEKS of All - Robyn Silbey

To maximize student understanding of problems have them explain their plan for solving without using numbers.

Clueless- Unintended Consequences of Using Clues of Key Words - Cathy Seeley

  • The best way to formatively assess a student is to listen to their problem solving process.
  • There is a difference in solving word problems and solving mathematical problems posed with words.  
  • What students need for their future is as much about how they think as it is about what they know
  • Their futures are in our hands and ours are in theirs
  • Book recommendation: Mindset by Carol Dweck
  • Resource:

Building Powerful Numeracy: Fractions and Ratios - Pamela Harris 

Probably my favorite session of the day.  Such an energizing and engaging presenter! 

  • Math is figure-out-able!
    Not memorizable.  <<- When you sing cute songs and play cute games it supports this.  
  • Look to most ef´Čücient strategies and buildproportional reasoning at the same time
  • Teachers build own numeracy
  • It’s about relationships
    Among numbers to solve problems
    Between teachers and students to build young mathematicians
Harris took us through problem strings to build relationships among numbers to solve problems.  On this one...think about a clock: 

  • 30 minutes + 20 minutes = 50 minutes, 50/60, 6 equal sections of 10 minutes each, so 5/6 
  • students solve addition of fraction problems by understanding relationships in numbers, not by rushing to an algorithm that isn't built on conceptual understanding 
  • Develop relationships using naturally occurring denominators (think money /100 and clock /60) but continue to develop relationships- don't leave them here! 
Quote from Harris, "Oh, that's going to be hard, so let's reframe it!  No!  If it is going to be hard then they need to confront it.  Put the misconception in front of them!"

This session flew by and left my head spinning a little... definitely plan on purchasing this book though:

CAMT 2013 - Day 1

Capturing, Sharing, Resolving Perplexity - Dan Meyer

I was so incredibly excited to hear Dan speak.  And he did not disappoint.  I first came across Dan Meyer in this video:

I followed him on twitter and had looked into Teaching with 3 Act Tasks, but had not yet integrated any of these tasks or types of problems into my own classroom.  

What is perplexity?  Not confusion.  It is students asking questions and  wanting to know the answers.  This is not to be confused with engagement.  Use tasks that make it near impossible for students to not ask their own mathematical questions.  In watching videos in Act I, you are left asking a question, with an eagerness to jump in and solve, or engage in mathematics.  

Capture perplexity-  RSS reader (I'm currently using feedly with google reader gone), save and download youtube videos using keepvid, way to take notes, audio recorder, camera 

Share perplexity- computer with speakers and projector, document camera to display student work

Resolve perplexity- focus on standards, only use technology as a tool if it is being used to capture, share, or resolve perplexity 

**This year I will begin class not with "Today we are going to learn about...." but "Today we are going to ask about..." 

Not so Common Sense - Rachel Cruze
  • We can change the lives of students by teaching them about money NOW.
  • 7 out of 10 Americans live paycheck to paycheck.  This is our normal.  Challenge students and give them the knowledge and tools they need to be better than normal.
  • Break the cycle, give students the knowledge to make better financial decisions.  
  • Coming away from Dan's session... I thought-  why just tell and show students these statistics?  Certainly engaging, but not perplexing.  Instead ask students: what would happen if you put that car payment into a mutual fund earning 12% interest... let them find the answer.
  • Several links to resources: , ,

Math- Fun & Games for All, Part II

This session was presented by sixth grade math teachers in Huntsville ISD.  Documents here
  • Fraction War - compare fractions using dominoes- template for dominoes included
  • Board games-  Let's Fly, Game on!, Its All Yours! - The team presented multiple board games that could be used with essentially any topic.  Create game cards with questions for any topic (equivalent fractions, vocabulary, computation, etc)  Students draw a card, answer the question on that card, and if correct spin the spinner or roll the dice and move their token the allotted number of spaces.  An incorrect answer does not get to move their token.
    If you have worksheets already, instead of creating cards, you could have blank cards that indicate a problem number.  Students draw a card to tell them which problem they work.  
  • I See It In Threes- Using dominoes.  Players draw dominoes from a pile and write the fraction on the domino and then convert to decimal and a percent.  
  • Ad's Up!  With dominoes this game has multiple stages.  Students begin adding fractions and work up to adding mixed numbers (using a combination of a dice roll and dominoes).  
  • Convert My ? - Turn over a domino.  The left side is feet and the right side is inches.  Convert to inches.  Could work with any measurement conversions. 
  • Top Dog- Students use dominoes to form fractions and see who can add their dominoes together to form the largest number.  
  • You Can't See Me - Place Value, could use in compare/order decimals in sixth grade

Mathematical Processes in Action - Juli Dixion 

"Student engagement in the mathematical processes is widely supported, but what it looks like in the classroom remains elusive.  Explore classroom videos of the process in action and discuss their use as a tool for professional development" - from CAMT catalog 

Mathematical process standards. The student uses mathematical processes to acquire and demonstrate mathematical understanding. The student is expected to:
(A)  apply mathematics to problems arising in everyday life, society, and the workplace;
(B)  use a problem-solving model that incorporates analyzing given information, formulating a plan or strategy, determining a solution, justifying the solution, and evaluating the problem-solving process and the reasonableness of the solution;
(C)  select tools, including real objects, manipulatives, paper and pencil, and technology as appropriate, and techniques, including mental math, estimation, and number sense as appropriate, to solve problems;
(D)  communicate mathematical ideas, reasoning, and their implications using multiple representations, including symbols, diagrams, graphs, and language as appropriate;
(E)  create and use representations to organize, record, and communicate mathematical ideas;
(F)  analyze mathematical relationships to connect and communicate mathematical ideas; and
(G)  display, explain, and justify mathematical ideas and arguments using precise mathematical language in written or oral communication.

     These were some things I tweeted during this presentation: 
  • If students can create word problems for numerical expressions, they have a greater grasp of numerical and operational concepts
  • Instead of giving students word problems and asking them to solve it, give them a numerical expression and ask them to write a problem.
  • If classroom feels neat and controlled, then the teacher is probably doing majority of thinking. Be okay with walking away from struggling students
  • When we expect students to use multiple representations then we need to be prepared to accept them
  • Instead of telling students the angles in a triangle add up to 180 degrees, challenge them to draw a triangle in which that is not true
3 rules when working in cooperative groups:
  1. Provide an explanation and justification for your solutions and answers
  2. Make sense of classmates' solutions
  3. Communicate when you don't agree or don't understand

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Teacher Report Card

The last week of school I had my students complete a "Teacher Report Card" using a google form. I wish I could say I created this...but I stole/borrowed from Matt Vaudrey--> see here.

Some things I'm taking with a grain of salt because, well, I teach middle school.  So the student that gave me 1's across the board...well thanks.   But I do value my stduents' opinions and have spent time reflecting on each of these things and working on ways to improve for next year.

If you know me very well.... I was always an all A student.  My one B in high school was in PE....go ahead and laugh.  And my one B in college was in Calculus II.  So only two A's is not okay with me.  My focus this summer is going to my C's (and lower, ouch!) but I obviously have lots of work ahead of me :)

Seems to enjoy teaching- 4.52
Encourages me to be responsible- 4.54

Speaks clearly - 4.49
Uses language we can understand- 4.47
Grades fairly- 4.47
Has a great sense of humor- 4.41
Gives tests that reflect material in unit- 4.26
Leads good class discussions- 4.23
Tries new teaching methods- 4.19
Praises good work- 4.19
Provides time for review- 4.17
Encourages different opinions- 4.17
Listens to our ideas- 4.16
Gives good, fair assignments- 4.12
Dresses professionally- 4.12
Gives enough time for assignments- 4.12
Answers questions completely- 4.07

C's and below (which are just NOT ok with me)
Respects each student- 3.99
Explains topics clearly- 3.97
Treats me as an individual- 3.95
Has interesting lessons- 3.93
Tells us our learning goals- 3.86
Gives fair punishments- 3.84
Shows interest in student lives- 3.76
Has a good pace- 3.72
Makes me feel important- 3.71  (that one hurts)
Does a good job of treating all students the same- 3.69
Tries to see the students point of view- 3.69
But then I get comments like this, "We always have fun in her class, she always tries to see what the students point of view is instead of what hers is."
Keeps the class under control without being too tough- 3.47 (that is failing!)

Answers to other questions:

How can this class be improved?
"More reviewing before test so we make better grades or we stay on that topic a little longer."  - I agree...pressed with scope and sequence required by district though...
"if some of the people in class can stop being bad and listen.."  -Haha, I got a lot of responses like this... it was not the intention of the question but a lot of the students responded with ways their classmates could have improved the class.
"Ms.Stephens is more strict to the later classes than morning ones. I think she needs to loosen up just a bit." -  Ouch...maybe that is true.
"I think the class cam be improved by not getting the whole class in trouble when it is only one person." - Goal of mine...just always struggle to figure out ways to do this.
"By not having so many assignments and we need more technology" - More technology is at the top of my to do list! :)

Your friend tells you that they have Ms. Stephens next year.  What do you tell them?
"I would say sixth grade math is hard, but Ms.Stephens has you covered. She has different teaching methods than your teacher last year but I know she will get you used to it."
"I would honestly say she is an  AMAZING TEACHER but beware that you have to behave in her class because she can be strict but also fun and thats what makes her a great teacher."
"I tell them that's your fault you failed 6th grade"  Haha!

Anything else you want to tell me?
"I have loved this year I got awesome teachers and you  have been one of them you are an awesome teacher and have never enjoyed math , but this year was different this year math was actually not the most desirable class for me to go to that was P.E. Love ya  Ms.Stephens I hope my sister gets you in 2 years . "
"that i wasn't ever good at math until this year."

After reading through these one of the things that bothered me the most was the number of students that mentioned they should stay on "my good side".... I don't want to be seen as having a good or bad side.  I want to be seen as fair and consistent.  Embarrassing to admit...but maybe the first step in improving it.  My classroom management was much better than my first year...but I obviously have a ways to go in creating relationships with students but remaining firm, fair, and consistent.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Last days...

My principal at BMS shares important things with staff through a "Friday Focus" email at the end of each week.  In last Friday's she wrote:

"....I tell you all this only to remind you all that there is so much more than STAAR scores, stressful crazy schedules and disruptive classes. I know May pushes our patience, our understanding and our stress levels to the max.  It is so hard to avoid the negativity and the complaining, but I challenge you all to face these next two weeks with a positive outlook and a smile.  Many of our students are two weeks away from spending an entire summer in households with little to no love and very little parental guidance.  Even though our students may not be battling cancer like Saxton, many are fighting their own evil monsters.  We have two more weeks to possibly make a lasting impression on some of our most troubled students.   Each day set a goal to find five students and give them a compliment….
                “I love your outfit”
                “I have been so proud of you this year”
                “You have an awesome smile”
                “You are so smart”
You never know…that one compliment that takes you less than 5 seconds to say may be what that student holds on to for the entire summer. " 

Many teachers at my school are counting down the days until summer.  Last Monday! 2 more days of morning duty!  3 more full days and then 4 half days!  7 more days!  I don't blame them.  Our schedule is crazy and the kids have been a little wild to say the least.  I'll gladly welcome the break and the opportunity to sleep in...but after about 2 weeks, it will sink in and I will really miss my kids.  And I'm not sure what we are communicating to students when they hear teachers counting down the days until summer...So while others choose to count down in excitement...I'm not.  

I don't want this year to be over.  After last year I thought that I would never love a group of students as much as I did my first group...but my second group is just as special and it will be just as hard to say goodbye next week.  Mrs. Still's email reminded of the opportunity we have to make impacts on students and I feel like I'm running out of time to do so.  

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Trip Investigation- Announcing the winners!

Kali and Brian spent a few days watching videos of presentations and studying the displays students created and the winners have been selected!

It was nice to have the pressure off of me to select...there were too many excellent projects to choose from!

Yellow Block
Rylie P and Katherine S -

Red Block
Dixie M and Thayley T -

Green Block
Cesar C and Melisa M -

Blue Block
Mollie P and Bailee R -

Presenting Trip Investigation

We spent some class time discussing what a presentation should look like and make makes a successful presentation...but obviously not enough.

At first I was disappointed in some of the presentations giving by students.  So many just read from the screen and so many failed to make any eye contact at all.  There were groups that were barely audible and others that giggled the entire time.  In reflecting, I got over my initial disappointment.  My kids did AMAZING things with this project.  This was their (and my) first taste of PBL and they worked so hard and learned so much...I'll consider that a success.  I know adults that read presentations from slides in a, yes some of my twelve year olds that had never given a presentation did it...and that's okay.

At the same time, I do think speaking to an audience is an invaluable skill and something I thought deserved more class I uploaded videos of presentations to youtube and created playlists for each class.  Students had the chance to watch their own presentations and the presentations of classmates and review them using this checklist (it goes along with the powerpoint I shared earlier).

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Trip Investigation - Day 7

Students continued working on visuals for their presentations today.  Before they started we talked about what a good presentation looked like and my expectations for their presentation.

We used this google presentation as a guide... and I entertained them by showing them what NOT to do. :)  Here is just a quick look:

Make your own slideshow at Animoto.

I don't really know what to expect from students on this project, but I'm excited to see what they can show me!

Monday, May 6, 2013

I'm a math teacher but....

I'm a math teacher.... but my goal is to teach more than math.  I want to teach students to solve problems and to think critically.  I want them to learn how to work with others, the value of hard work, how to ask good questions (because I believe there are stupid questions...) and how to find answers to their questions. Empathy, respect, kindness, responsibility, patience.  Along the way they have teach me plenty of their own lessons.

During my time at A&M my instructors constantly told us... you do not teach MATH... you teach STUDENTS.  It is easy to get caught in standards and a schedule and pushing to teach kids what someone else tells me I have to.  I know there have been days that I'm so focused on a particular objective that I've missed out on valuable learning opportunities.   That is one reason I've loved the trip investigation project.  My students are learning math but they are learning real life lessons as well.  They have to maintain a budget (many have commented how quickly $5000 goes...), follow a schedule, organize information, work with a partner, communicate with an authentic audience, etc.

Today was a rough day for me personally.  I've heard that teachers are teachers and students are students and we shouldn't share our personal life.  To some extent, I agree.  At the same time, we are all people.  I think students respond better to teachers that they have a relationship with, no something about, can relate to, etc.  I kept it from my first two classes...but I was obviously short-tempered and did not have the energy of a typical day.  I decided to share with my last two classes what was going on and was so touched by their reactions.  They showed me empathy, patience, and kindness beyond what I could have expected.  Those two classes went much smoother then my morning classes.  I owe those two an apology :/  

When I got to my night class I checked my email and had a message from a student saying she hoped everything got better and she was praying.  Another gave me a hug after school and told me she hoped I felt better.  She told me that she did that because earlier this year she was having a bad day and I noticed and stopped to talk to her about what was going on and gave her a hug when she was crying.  Wow.  I teach such amazing kids.  I hope I teach them half as much as they teach me :)

Trip Investigation- Day 6

Students started by summarizing all of the research from days 3-5 into this table:

After, I shared a Google Spreadsheet version of these expense tables with students and they could check their work using the spreadsheet.  I set it up to automatically calculate totals and automatically construct a bar and circle graph of the data.

My original intention was to walk students through constructing graphs in spreadsheet...but I just didn't make that happen.

Today I also shared different ways students could present.  I showed them smore, voicethread, and google presentation but left it open to them to propose other ideas as well.  And of course they were free to create a more traditional poster presentation.

I showed them each tool quickly but also created a google presentation with little pieces of information on each method and embedded how to videos for each tool.  Before students can ask me questions they have to watch these videos. View presentation here.

I'm excited to see which tools students decide to use :)  They will work on presentations tomorrow and Wednesday and we will present Thursday!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Trip Investigation- Day 3

Day 3-5 students are researching lodging, meals, activities, and any other expenses.

Today went very well.  Students continued to ask questions using Today's Meet.  As a little mini-lesson before we started, we discussed taking screenshots on the chromebooks in more detail.  We talked about how to take a screenshot, how to move that screenshot from our downloads to our google drive, and how to then move it into our trip investigation folder (so I could view photos and partners could view photos).

We talked about how they can then crop or edit that photo as well.  As students researched meals, lodging, and activities they took pictures of anything they might want to use in a presentation later :)

Some of my students struggled to find good travel resources so I just created this symbaloo that I will share with them tomorrow:

The top tiles will take them to travel resources and the bottom tiles give them options for presentations.  I will demonstrate several options next Monday....but there are others students can explore if they want to! :)

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Trip Investigation- Day 2

Day 2:

  • Choose a destination from the 3 you researched yesterday.  Explain why you made that choice.
  • Research travel costs.
  • Estimate the distance in miles from Brian and Kali's home to the destination.

    For this I encouraged use of google maps.  Students had to estimate the distance between locations  using the scale at the bottom of the map.   Lots of good conversations about if they should estimate the distance across oceans or go longer distances to stay on land (example, students traveling to Cancun, Mexico) 

  • Determine mode and cost of transportation.

    This led to conversations about roundtrip versus one-way and layovers.  A lot of the students used expedia and ended up with screens showing all of the information they needed in one place!  When they got to this screen they brought me their chromebooks and we took a screenshot of the information as a way to "book" the flight.

    Here is a screenshot from one of my students: 

  • Determine the time it will take to travel.

Because I was checking answers from day 1 and "booking" flights (showing students how to save screenshots and share with partners)  I wanted students to have a way to ask questions without holding their hand in the air forever and without shouting across the room so I created a room in Today's Meet  for students to ask questions.  I was super happy with how this worked :)

Monday, April 29, 2013

Trip Investigation- Day 1

During my green block, a student was called to the office to be signed out of school early.  Normally all of the other students moan and are jealous that the student is getting to leave... today.... THAT student moaned and said he didn't want to leave.  Success!! :)

Today each student set up a folder within their google drive and shared this folder with me.  Now any documents they need me to see, they place within this folder.  They also shared the folder with their partners.  I shared an introduction page and the rubric with students today and they made copies of these files and saved them into their folders.  This was a bit of a complicated process... I had never been through it with students before and should have had prepared instructions typed out with screenshots to refer to.  Students were not familiar with making copies and renaming files within google drive or moving documents between folders and we all got a little frustrated.  We got through it though and they were super excited about starting their research! :)

Today they had to list 3 possible destinations and choose reasons for choosing each.  They will receive a daily grade for this portion of the assignment.

I also created a document in google that was shared with all students AND Kali and Brian.  Students can post questions for Kali and Brian, and they will answer  (aren't my friends awesome for helping!?!) periodically.  Students will be able to communicate with Kali and Brian throughout the project using this document:

Minor hiccup with creating documents and folders...but we made it through and hopefully destination and travel research goes well tomorrow!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Trip Investigation - Introduction

Okay, this is my first PBL unit.  Our last unit in CSCOPE was a trip investigation:  give the kids $1800 and 4 days and let them create a vacation to wherever they choose.  Fun!

I took it a step further.... they have heard me talking about my best friend getting married all semester. They've seen pictures and heard details so I put my own spin on the project based on this!  

Tomorrow when students come in they will here this voicemail : Kali telling me that her honeymoon has been cancelled 1 month before the wedding!  OH NO! 

Then I will show this presentation:

And this video of Kali and Brian explaining what they want in a honeymoon:

More to come on this project throughout the week! :)

Friday, April 19, 2013

Day 5: Sink or Swim

STAAR Crunch Day 5 Agenda

1. Warm-up
2. Check homework
3. Sink or Swim

This review game was from a meeting with our instructional coach, Gayle Lechler!  I had never played before and was nervous, but explained this to my first block and asked them to work with me :)

I gave each team (3-5 students depending on size of my class) an index card and told them to create a group name and write it on the index card.  Students received STAAR problems from reporting category 5 - Probability and Statistics.  I instructed students which problem to work on and then drew an index card.  That team answered - if correct they could choose to "sink" a member of another team or "swim" a member of their own team that was previously sunk.  Sinking players are not allowed to talk or help their team members, but they are still required to work problems.

It was really easy and the kids got really into it.  They didn't care that it wasn't leading anywhere and that nobody was necessarily winning.  I was prepared to grant immunity to any players that were repeatedly being chosen to sink, but it wasn't necessary.   Some entire teams ended up sinking... in which case I chose one player to answer the question-  if correct they saved themselves and the game could continue.

With my first block, we discovered it was a little more fun to have a handful of problems worked and then complete a couple of rounds of sink/swim rather then doing one question at a time.  In the rest of my blocks I gave them 20 minutes to work on problems with a partner before starting the game aspect and it worked really well.

Unrelated- but highlight of my day:
Students have been earning tickets for a prize drawing Monday.  Since sink or swim didn't have a "winner" I decided to provide an opportunity for one group to earn bonus tickets today.  I asked them to estimate how many tickets were in their class jar.  I expected students to just look at the jar and guess a number....which some of them did, and that was fine.  But I heard conversations between other students that were SO exciting.

I had drawn a chart on the chalkboard recording the percentage of students turning in a completed homework- with work shown- each day throughout STAAR Crunch this week.  I forgot to take a picture :( but something like this -
I heard students saying, "Well there are 20 students in our class, so day 1 if 75% brought homework back...then 15 people brought it back and earned tickets.  Day 2 if 90% brought homework back, then 18 people earned tickets, and so on.  This was so beyond what I expected when I decided at the last minute to let them compete in a quick estimation contest.  Really proud of the mathematical conversations I was hearing :)

Day 4: Jeopardy

STAAR Crunch Day 4 Agenda

1. Warm-up
2. Go over homework
3. Review Test  #12, 16, 17
4. Jeopardy
5. Homework

Today we were working on Category 4- Measurement.  Another math teacher designed a Jeopardy to go along with the problem set for today!

Each table selected a captain that received a dry erase board, marker, and tissue to erase.  Groups took turns choosing a category and point value.  Every team answered the question and the captain recorded the answer on the dry erase board.  Students turned the board over to "lock in" their answers.  Every team could earn points for every question.

Exciting moment of the day-  two of my four classes had 100% of homework completed and all day only 2 students had not completed the homework.  Very exciting for me and huge improvement from what I typically see with homework.

And a side note on the homework incentive... kids are SO generous.  I check all of my paper bags to make sure the items inside are appropriate and have been so impressed with the generosity of my students in filling these prize bags for classmates.  Several bags had $10 and $20.  Crazy.  My favorite had a comic book, baseball cards, green army men, and the handheld 20 Questions game.  I love my students!

Day 3: Sink the Sub

STAAR Crunch Day 4 Agenda

1. Warm-up
2. Grade Homework
3. Test #13-15
4. Sink the Sub
5. Homework

I originally found sink the sub here.  I used this game last year a few times and the kids loved it!  To switch it up, another math teacher and I split our classes in half-  half of her students would come to me and half of mine would go to her each period.  Students competed against the other class which increased motivation and resulted in less behavior problems!  It was awesome :)

Anyway,  I created a new version of Sink the Sub that does not show questions... just question # 1-25.  I also took out the answers so that I can use the game with a variety of assignments and don't have to edit each time.

I facilitated the game similar to Jenga.  Students were in two groups- boys versus girls.  I randomly chose a boy to select the coordinates on the gameboard.  Behind the tiles, there is either a picture of ocean.... or a question mark.  If the tile reveals the ocean, that team's turn is over.  If it reveals a question, EVERYONE works out that question on their own paper.  If the team misses, the other gets a chance to steal.  When they get a question correct, they move the question mark to reveal either a fish or a submarine.  Finding a submarine earns the team 5 points and a fish earns 1 point.

The kids worked 25+ problems without realizing it and while having fun :)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Day 2: JENGA

STAAR Crunch Day 2 Agenda:

1. Warm-up
2. Go over HW
3. Test #9-11
4. Jenga!

One of my favorite review games and one of the ways I change a boring worksheet and create an interactive day for students.  Today each student had a set of 25 STAAR questions from Reporting Category 2 (TEKS 6.3 A-C, 6.4 A-B, 6.5 A) to complete.  

With a plain set of Jenga blocks, I have written #1 - #25 on 25 of the blocks.  Then I added comments on extra blocks like: choose any, choose any even, choose any odd, choose any +2, 2 free points, 1 free point, lose a point, extra turn, lose a turn, and so on until all the blocks had something written on them.

In class, I split my class into two teams-  typically boys and girls.  I randomly choose a girl from my popsicle sticks (beforehand I usually sort put sticks with girls names in my right pocket and sticks with boys names in my left pocket).  This girl comes and pulls a block from the Jenga tower.  The block tells this student and the rest of the class what problem to complete.  I can walk around and help struggling students and address common mistakes.  When the original girl has completed the problem she tells me the answer.  If she is correct, she earns a point for her team.  If not, the boys can steal.  Everyone must be working or: 1. You won't be able to steal, 2. Ms. Stephens makes us stop playing the game and just do the worksheet- boring.  Next it is boys turn and so on until class is over or everyone has had a turn.  

The kids end up doing all or majority of the problems without realizing it and I'm able to watch work processes and address common errors.  It gets a little loud sometimes (today my reading teacher next door messaged me and asked if there was a mouse in my room because she could hear squealing and desks moving)-  they really get into it! 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Homework Incentive

I typically don't assign a lot of homework-  last year was my first year and I noticed that the kids that were doing it...didn't need the practice...and the ones who did need it either practiced the entire thing incorrectly or didn't attempt it at all.  (I will be assigning more next year, just working on figuring out the balance).

Anyway... this week we are preparing for the STAAR test and have homework each night.  Just 10 questions... but motivating the students can be challenging this time of year.

Solution:  A week ago the math department sent home a brown paper sack with each student with a note attached:

Students return the bags with some type of prize inside-  some put bags of chips, candy, $1 or $5, etc.

Throughout this week when students complete homework (bonus tickets for making A's!) or win games in class, they receive tickets.  They place them in containers for each class- my classes are organized by colors.

Monday I will draw names from the containers.  If I draw your name, you get to select a prize bag.  I'm keeping bags that are turned in separated by class so in some classes more names will be drawn then in others, but that is okay.

Really easy (and free for me!) motivation for students to complete homework! :)

STAAR Crunch- Day 1


1. Warm-ups
2. Go over test # 1-8
3. Review Game
4. Pass out/discuss homework

We are one week away from the STAAR assessment, so we are in crunch time!  We are switching things up, which has students excited and there are incentives being thrown all over the place (I don't necessarily know if that is a good or bad thing).  Monday we are covering reporting category 1, Tuesday category 2, etc.

I created warm-ups that were all questions with answers that could be recorded in grids.  Students struggle to record answers correctly so each day at the beginning of class, they practice this.

We gave a CSCOPE test Friday and the grades were LOW.  In all honesty, I didn't think it was a fair test of what we covered that week but we are required to give those exams for data purposes.  I didn't want to completely dismiss it though, so we are going over category 1 questions Monday, category 2 questions Tuesday, etc.  I'm asking students to find WRONG answers and tell me WHY they are wrong.

For a review game, we tweaked "ghost in the graveyard" or "Candy Hearts" to have a STAAR theme:

Student groups got a card of questions from Reporting Category 1 (TEKS 6.1 (A-F) and 6.2 (A-E) and were to work together to solve.  When they thought all were correct, they bring me the card.  If they are right, they receive a colored star to place around the room on larger stars.  If any answers are wrong, I tell them to go back and try again.  I tell them how many they have wrong, but not which ones.  This annoys them, but tough.

At the end of class, I drew cards to determine how much each start was worth.  The kids are familiar with the game, so it was a good day!

I made a few changes throughout the day though-  some of the cards had 5 or 6 questions, which took students too long and they got frustrated.  For some of my classes 3 was a better number, and for others 4 made it more challenging, so I adjusted the number of questions they had to complete on each card along the way.

Homework this week:  Every night students have 10 STAAR-like (or as close as we can get at this point knowing what we know) questions.  They are graded at the beginning of class the next day.  Students who complete the homework receive 3 things-  a ticket, a STAAR buck, and the satisfaction of preparation and a job well done.

Tickets are entered into drawings for prizes at the end of the week.  STAAR bucks earn them a chance to play games or purchase snacks in a school-wide STAAR carnival at the end of testing.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

My Favorite No- Adapted

In a department planning day our instructional coach shared a strategy: My Favorite No - Learning from Mistakes .  "A mistake is your opportunity to share with me how much you understand"

We took a quiz last week...and the grades were disappointing.  Typically I would hand the quiz back and we would go over questions at a class but this isn't typically effective-  students who should be listening aren't.  So I adapted "My favorite no" to review quiz answers.

As I was grading I took notice of common student errors and took pictures of student work:

Students got out a piece of notebook paper.  I displayed an image of a student mistake and gave the class one minute to write down any and all mistakes they saw, one minute to share with their group members, and then we discussed what the student did correct and what mistakes they made, as well as how they could correct their mistakes.

The students really enjoyed this activity and when I returned their quizzes they were able to recognize their own mistakes and correct independently.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Review Rotations- Add and Subtract Fractions and Decimals

We have entered 3 weeks of STAAR Crunch time.  We are reviewing all of the concepts we have learned throughout the year and making connections between concepts in preparation for the STAAR exam.

Today we were reviewing the addition and subtraction of decimals, fractions, and mixed numbers.  Instead of just having kids complete a worksheet, I decided to have each student group create their own questions and then rotate to solve questions written by classmates.

I had students fold their paper into fourths- creating 4 sections on the front and 4 sections on the back-  room for the 6 stations and 2 summary questions at the end that I gave them.  At each table there was a red card and a colored piece of paper.  To prevent students from writing simple problems (one-half plus one-half), I created a "number bank" providing students with fractions or decimals that they could choose to incorporate into their word problems.  Student groups would work together to write a word problem on the colored paper using the numbers and operation provided on the red card.  Then groups rotated.  At the new station, students solved the question written by the previous group and then wrote a new problem using the red card.

Some struggled, some wrote really great questions, some wrote more difficult questions that I would have given.  A lot were surprised and upset when class was over...which does not always happen in math class, so that is good.  I was able to walk around and get a general idea about where students were struggling, provide help, and modify tomorrows lesson to meet their needs better.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Instant Group Game

The idea behind this is essentially the same as here but switches it up just enough so the kids think it is a new game....

Students were given 4 problem situations in which they had to solve multi-step problems by writing an expression and solving the expression using the order of operations

Ex - Ms. Stephens is twelve less than 3 times your age.... how old is she?
Expression: 12*3-12  = 24

Good assignment...just a little boring in my opinion.

So.... students worked in groups.  Here are procedures for group work:

When every student in a group have agreed on an answer, they call me over to check.  If correct, students get to draw a card.  Throughout class each group collected cards.

At the end of class I asked students to find the total value of their cards (face cards = 10 and aces = 11).  I told students that the groups that total was closest to my age were the winners!  In the future, I could switch it up by announcing the winners are those with the lowest total, or most hearts, or most face cards, etc.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Easter Bonus

Thursday before a 3 day Easter weekend.... and we had a test....

To add a little excitement, I had hidden Easter eggs around the room, some better than others.  I wanted some to be in view so kids would ask questions.  

Before the test I gave them one minute to find an egg and return to their seats.  In each egg was a jolly rancher and a strip of paper.  These strips of paper contained bonus questions.  I had them numbered 1-10 and students had to write which number they were solving when they put the answer on the back of the test. At the end of class I gave each student another egg and had them hide one for the students next period.  Easy way to add a little Easter excitement to a testing day! :) 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Probability Stations - Take 2

I'm keeping the volume down in cafeteria duty this morning when another math teacher's student teacher comes to find me and tell me that all the links I gave her for stations yesterday won't work on  

So...plan B.  First I panicked.  I promised the kids they would get to use chromebooks today but now I had zero idea what I was going to do.  So....I decided to wing it.  

They logged in and we talked about features of google chrome- customization, apps, and google search tips. Then I told them we were going to do an experiment with flipping coins....but since all that noise would drive me crazy, we needed a virtual coin.  We searched for virtual coin toss and ended up deciding this website would work.  They answered all the questions I'd originally planned and we were even able to see further evidence of increasing a sample size increasing accuracy since this website records total flips of all time (49.99% were heads).    

Next, I had them search for a virtual spinner.  In this case, plan B was better than plan A.  Students could go into the menu and change the spinner.  We created my vision of the spinner together and students answered the questions I had planned.  Then rather then just sketching a spinner with percents I had given them....they had to figure out how to construct it using this program.  It was so fun listening to them think through how they could make it work.  

The marble activity I had originally planned did work on chromebooks and in my first block they went through this activity.  In other classes I decided I would rather give more time to start their review to prepare for our test the next day.  

All in all, plan B > plan A in this case.  I'm starting to become more okay with that.  

Monday, March 25, 2013

Probability Stations

I love stations and I love chromebooks.   The chromebook cart is not available this week so I plan on borrowing just a few chromebooks for stations :)

Station 1 - Coin Toss

Chromebooks will be set on this page:

Questions posted at station:

1. If I toss a coin, what are the possible outcomes?  What is the probability of each outcome?

2. If I toss a coin twice, what are the possible outcomes?  What is the probability of each outcome?

3. If I toss a coin 10 times, how many would you expect to land on heads.  Enter 10 in the number of tosses, click start and record your results. 

4. If I toss a coin 50 times, how many would you expect to land on heads?  Enter 50 in the number of tosses, click start and record your results.

5. If I toss a coin 100 times, how many would you expect to land on heads?  Enter 100 in the number of tosses, click start and record your results. 

6. As you increase the number of tosses….do you notice anything about your data?  Why is this?  

Station 2 - 

Chromebooks will be set on this page:

Questions posted at station:

1. If I spin the spinner, what are the possible outcomes?  What is the probability of each outcome?

2. If I spin the spinner twice, what are the possible outcomes?  What is the probability of each outcome?

3. If I was to spin the spinner 20 times, how many times would you expect it to land on yellow?  Spin the spinner 20 times…. How many times does it actually land on yellow?  Explain why these answers might be different.

4. Create a spinner that has the following probabilities and draw it on your recording sheet:
    10% yellow
    10% purple
    20% orange
    20% red
    40% blue (because you know it is my favorite color)

Station 3 - Guess What's in the Bag? 

At station 3 I will have a brown paper bag with colored blocks or tiles or something inside.  
Questions posted at station 3:

1. Without looking, reach into the bag and choose an item.  Put the item back in the back and then draw again.  Repeat 10 times and record the colors of the 10 items you have drawn.

2. There are 20 items in the bag.  Based on your results from #1, predict how many items of each color are present in the bag.

3. Is it possible there are colors in the bag that you did not choose during #1?  Explain why or why not.

4. Look in the bag and write a fraction to represent each color.

5. How did your experimental probabilities compare to the theoretical probabilities?  

Station 4 - Deal or No Deal 

Chromebooks will be set to this page:

At this station, students will pick up this handout:

Most of the work at this station will be completed/shown on the handout, but I will have an instructions page with a few questions.

1. Choose your briefcase.

2. Open 6 briefcases.  As you are opening, cross off any opened amounts on the provided pages.

3. You will be given a bank offer… record this offer in the table on the right of the provided page by round 1.  How many briefcases are remaining with more than that offer?  How many briefcases are remaining total?  Calculate the probability of winning more than the bank offer.   Discuss as a group-  deal or no deal?

4. Continue to play the game, completing steps on the pages as you work. 

5. On your recording sheet, tell me how many rounds you played and your final winnings. 

Station 5 - Tree Diagrams

Draw tree diagrams for the following probability experiments and then answer the questions.

1. Rolling two dice.  What is the probability of rolling doubles?

2. Flipping a coin three times.  What is the probability of flipping 3 of the same thing?

3. Rolling a dice and tossing a coin.  What is the probability of rolling an even number and flipping heads? 

Station 6 - Marble Outcomes

Chromebooks will be set on this page:

Questions posted at station 6:

1. Follow steps given by the program.  How did you select if a red or blue marble appearing was impossible, unlikely, even change, likely, or certain?

2. Click the lever to pick a random marble.  Then click reset.  In 12 picks, how many times is each color picked?

3. Are the numbers what you expected?  Why or why not? 

4. What is the theoretical probability of each color being chosen?

5. Click reset, and then choose 12 marbles randomly again.  Are the numbers the same or different? Why? 

6.  How many red marbles would have to be in the machine to be certain of a red marble being chosen? 

I have 6 student groups of 3-5 students.  I have 90 minute classes so I set the timer for about 6-8 minutes per station.  This gives me time for warm-up at the beginning of class, time for them to move between stations when I say "rotate" and time to discuss each station at the end of class.  If students don't finish a station, it isn't a big deal, as long as they were working the entire time.

Students fold a blank sheet of paper into fourths-  giving 8 sections front and back.  They number the boxes and complete answers to each question in the coordinating box.  This leaves me two boxes to have them try problems again, take notes, or complete a ticket to leave once we have discussed each station as a class.  

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Small group tutorials - Add/Subtract Fractions

As we approach STAAR, BMS has modified our schedule to build in 30 minutes of tutorials for high impact students (or bubble kids).  Each of my classes are 15 minutes shorter and I have two tutorial groups of 10-12 students that I work with daily.  Students are in math tutorials for a week and then reading tutorials for a week, then back to math.  I've seen students who are normally too shy to ask questions open up in a smaller setting and I've seen this confidence carry over into class.  Awesome!

Next week we are working on the following skills:

  • Multiplication/Division of whole numbers
  • Addition and Subtraction of Fractions and Mixed Numbers
  • Addition and Subtraction of Decimals
Here are our plans:
  • Practice page-  4 problems on the front are completed on Day 1 so students have an idea about where they are starting.  At the end of the week they complete 4 similar problems on the back of the page to see progress and areas for further improvement.  Students track this data.
  • Addition and Subtraction of Fractions and Mixed Numbers BINGO (1-2 days)
    Students each receive a BINGO board and fill it in however they want.
    I copy the BINGO Questions onto card stock, laminate, and cut them out.  I write answers on the back to make it easier once we start playing.  
    I display questions under the document camera, students work the question, and cover up the answer on their BINGO boards.  First to 5 in a row wins!
    I like this activity because it is self-checking.  If students get an answer that is not an option listed...they immediately know they've made a mistake.
  • Chromebook Activity (2-3 days)
    Students will go to to a Job the Web page.  There are five games/activities for them to complete.
    1. Multiplication/Division Word Problems- Khan Academy
    2. Add and Subtract Fractions Board Game
    3. Fruit Shoot Fraction Addition
    4. Hotel Decimalfornia- Add/Subtract Decimals
    5. Add/Subtract Fractions and Mixed #s - Jeopardy Game
    As they complete activities/games they will record their scores on a recording sheet.   If they finish everything, they can go back and play other games to increase their scores.  At the end of the second day, they complete step 6 on the jog the web: a google form to share their answers.   I plan on giving a prize to the highest score submitted for each of the 5 activities just to encourage them! :) 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Probability: Sample Space

First day of probability!  We are starting with sample space: lists, tables, tree diagrams.  Last year I started with notes and told the kids step by step how to create an organized list or tree diagram to show the sample space.

This year we started with a problem:   a new store is releasing a new mp3 player that comes in 3 shapes, 3 colors, and 2 sizes.  I asked the students to tell me how many different mp3 players will need to be order and show me all the possibilities but didn’t give them any indication of how I wanted them to do this.  

Here are some of their answers:

Wow- I was impressed. Loved that I could see their thinking and that they were sharing strategies and ideas. Lesson learned.  I need to do a lot less teaching and a lot more listening.