Monday, November 24, 2014

Students' racial identities

Let's start this by laying out some groundwork.  I'm white, grew up in a predominately white community (at least 80%), attended a predominately white college, currently live in a predominately white community, and teach in a predominately white school.  That is to say that there have been few times in my life when I've been in a situation in which my race made me a minority.  Having friends who aren't white may give me some insights into what being a minority can be like, but it doesn't truly inform me.

My French class has been writing introductory letters to penpals in France. They know very few themes of vocabulary so far, and I've been encouraging them to use what they know instead of question me for endless lists of words.  In any case, I've entertained some requests and I was surprised to find out how many students wanted to specify their race or ethnic heritage in their letters.  None of the initial letters we received provided this information.  My French class is the most diverse class I teach and probably one of the most diverse in the entire school given our demographics.  Of the 23 students, 8 are white, 8 are African American, 1 is Native American, 5 are Hispanic or Latino, and 1 is "mixed" (her word, not mine- the school says "two or more races").  For comparison sake, my Algebra classes are 17 or 18 students of which at most 3 are not white. 

I remarked at this trend in vocabulary queries today because I realized no white students had asked me how to say, "I'm white" but I'd answered that question for every other race or ethnicity at some point over the past few days.  I'm not sure I've ever had to point out my race, except to fill out demographic info on surveys and the like, so it was interesting to me how many students felt compelled to include it. 

One of the African American students said he wondered if his pen pal was black.  I told him I knew the area where our pen pals live wasn't very diverse (I'd lived nearby a few years ago) and I doubted it; the odds aren't in his favor.  He seemed disappointed. 

I'm not entirely sure what to make of this observation, but I felt like it was worth recording.  If I have some new insights, I'll add to this post later.  I'm not explaining this eloquently, nor do I have a lot of depth to offer on the subject.

What role does race play in your classroom?

Mathematically (and linguistically) yours,
Miss B    


Sunday, November 16, 2014

It's official...

... the year of hard work paid off and I'm a National Board Certified Teacher in Early Adolescence Mathematics!  Looking back to January to May of this year, I can honestly say that there was not a single week in which I didn't spend several hours working on my portfolio entries.  Some weeks, I put in 20+ hours.  It was grueling.  Many co-workers who had gone through the process said it was the best PD they'd ever had.  I still think Twitter Math Camp beat out the NBCT process for me as my favorite PD ever, but TMC did have the structure of summer camp going for it. 

Both the NBCT process and the #MTBoS have a common thread of teachers who are continually striving to be better.  I attribute my success in the process, at least in part, to my blogging over the past 2+ years as well as my more recent Twitter exchanges with colleagues around the world.  I've been becoming more comfortable at putting myself out there where I could receive criticism from colleagues (though it comes more rarely than it's due) and I think that made it that much easier for me to critique my practice in an honest way.    

It was interesting to read the feedback with my scores; much of the feedback pointed out the same weaknesses I'd identified prior to submission but I had no way of correcting at the time.  One I've since corrected; I know I do too little to involve parents and this year I've started sending post cards to each student with a positive message.  I'm a bit behind, but the initiative is at least underway!  My biggest regret for NBCT was that I waited so long to film lessons that I was stuck with a particular video that wasn't great quality.  The lesson was good, I know the students' conversations were richer than the audio picked up, but the video just didn't showcase those aspects in the best possible way.  As a result, I had less material to write about than I should have.  My advice, therefore, to anyone currently working on NBCT is to video right away.  Tomorrow, even.  Whether or not you use the video, it's good to get in the habit of having the camera rolling so your students act naturally and you'll have perhaps a few extra videos to choose from when it comes time to write your heart out. 

Submission Night (Only at around 8pm or so, not that I look exhausted or anything!)

Submission Night cookie made by the wonderful Amy of Clough'D 9 Cookies.
Mathematically yours,
Miss B

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Algebraic Properties Lesson

I'm sorry to realize that I haven't blogged in 6 weeks.  It's been busy and I guess nothing's seemed fabulous.  (Yes, we should blog the mundane, but there's no time for that at the moment.)

Today's Algebra lesson was actually one that I really liked, so I thought I would blog it so I could remember it in the future. 

It started Monday during a short class period.  I had my students (who had some prior experience with Associative, Commutative, and Distributive properties from 7th grade) arrange themselves in lines of about 4 students standing side by side.  I then asked them to form two groups without changing the order of the line to demonstrate Associative Property.  I asked them to reorder to show Commutative Property.  We did several examples, including some where I asked them to show Commutative Property within a single group.  They had fun and we got some wiggles out before an assembly.

This seems like a good time to mention that my school district has adopted EngageNY modules, so this lesson takes some inspiration and notation from Module 1, Lesson 6.  Students were off school yesterday (teacher inservice!) so I picked up today with a "flow diagram."  I gave the class an expression to write in the center of their papers.  I think I used 3x + 18y + 12z.  I asked for a property.  In both classes, they selected Distributive Property first.  I branched off with a double-sided arrow and labeled the arrow with "D."  I asked the class to generate an equivalent expression using Distributive Property.  The volunteer wrote it down.  We continued with new properties and new expressions, adding about 5 more to our papers.  Then, in table groups each team wrote three new expressions using a colored pencil to show what was different from the class diagram.  The groups then jigsawed, shared their expressions, and got feedback.  The entire thing took about 20 minutes (10 for whole-group, 5 for small group, and 5 for jigsaw).

Then, students completed a set of stations.  I took poster paper and wrote a series of 7 equivalent expressions on each.  Students had to determine the property used with their group.  They recorded their answers.  When they reached the last station and completed it, they used post-its to display their answers.  Then, we jigsawed again to have students put checks or Xs to show if they agreed or disagreed with the answers suggested.  I used the checks and Xs as a check for understanding and to see where I need to reinforce things.  I found the difference between Distributive Property and Associative Property to be our largest area of confusion.  (I did 5 stations for 3-4 minutes each, 2 minutes to Post-it answers, and 3 minutes to check those answers for 25 minutes in stations.  My summary based on their feedback on Post-its took another 5-10). 

Why I liked this lesson: students spent lots of time debating and discussing.  The difficulty level of the problems was about right for my students, as they were able to be successful about 80% of the time based on my observations. 

For homework, I gave students a new expression and asked them to make 5 equivalencies.   I hope to be able to share some of these in the future! 

How do you make properties a bit more challenging than 3•5 = 5•3?

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Linear Equation Sorting Update

On Sunday, I posted my plan for a set of cards that I wanted my students to sort. We started sorting them yesterday. I gave each group about 5 minutes to sort the cards. I asked them at that point to share out their strategies. They continued sorting until at least a few groups were finished. Most teams started with 5 groups, not 4 as I'd expected. They separated the equations by form and then separated the graphs by positive or negative slope. A few groups sorted by y-intercept (where they could decipher one). Only one group actually started down the path they eventually needed to be on. I interrupted to tell them that I actually needed 6 equal groups of cards. With that direction, about 2/3 of the groups figured out what to do, even if they had some trouble with how to accomplish it. I still had several groups in the proverbial woods, though. I asked, "I wanted six groups. Do you have six of anything?" Each time, I got a version of, "Oh, there are six graphs!" Sorting took off quickly then. It took quite some time for the groups to sort the cards into the six groups. I'm glad that I included both positive and negative 3/2 as a slope because I was able to catch some misconceptions there. It also helped that repeated a y-intercept for the same reason.

Once the students had six groups each containing one graph and its equation in three forms, I challenged them to match the numbers in the point-slope form (which they hadn't learned yet) to the features of the graph.  They figured out the slope quickly and were likely aided by how many of the slopes were fractions.  I was happy to hear many of them explain that they knew which number was the slope because they knew they would distribute the number outside the parentheses to the x, which would make it the slope in slope-intercept form.  The "point" of "point-slope" form was an enigma.  I pushed them for 20-30 minutes.  My first class didn't quite get there.  One boy saw it, explained it to me and his group, and then got picked up early.  His explanation got completely lost in translation because his group member tried to explain it to the class and even had me confused as to what he was trying to communicate.   I ended up giving it away to this class.  I wish I'd had a few more minutes to push them to list ordered pairs to make the connection.  The second class went better because I saw how a few of my lines of questioning didn't work and how others worked well.  I had over half of the class get the meaning of the point without me giving it away and I was able to get those students to clearly explain it to their classmates. 

The reason I wrote this post was to remind myself that being less helpful is hard, but good.  The students were having incredibly good, productive discussions today, using their vocabulary and their reasoning to work on what was a challenging but possible task.  We spent a full hour in groups having these discussions and sorting the cards.  I was aiming to be done this part in about 15 minutes, but my students' engagement convinced me to hang in there until they had gotten all the way through, even though it look longer than I had anticipated.  The first group to whine, "We can't get this!" was actually the first group to fully understand and articulate the meaning of point-slope form.  Now, will they remember how their perseverance paid off?  I hope so! 

How do you scaffold exploration activities with questioning so that students are successful?

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Matching Three Forms of Linear Functions

My students have worked on slope-intercept form and standard form in Algebra.  I want them to also learn point-slope form. 
I'm trying to avoid making that into a direct instruction lesson, and I am going to use these cards to help students make some observations about point-slope form.
I'm planning to give pairs students this stack of cards and have them sort them into meaningful piles.  I suspect they might start by sorting the graphs into one pile, the slope-intercept form into another, etc.  I'll then suggest they try to make 6 piles so that they try to match the graphs to the functions. 
Once students have the six piles, I'll ask them to explain why they put each pile together. I'll ask what the numbers in point-slope form represent. And we'll go from there. This feels like something Cindy Johnson (the Conic Card Lady) would do; I hope I'm keeping with the spirit of her activity.

*The graphs are taken from a worksheet and I just added the forms of equations below.  What's your favorite card sorting activity? Mathematically yours, Miss B

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Integer Rules

Noticing how my students struggle with their integer operations, I put together these simple posters. Hopefully, they'll serve as enough reminder for some of my students who are almost to proficiency. How do you address integers in the later grades? Mathematically yours, Miss B

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Vertical Number Line

I should have been typing up lesson plans.  That's boring.

Instead, I read Sarah's blog post about using vertical number lines.  My students this year are worse than ever at integers.  Ugh.  How does that keep happening?  I suppose this group's problem might be from elementary school because they're also having trouble with 8x3 and 12-7.  Anyway, rather than complain, let's give them tools to get past the hurdle.  Sarah's individual number lines are a good start.  She mentioned in her post that she wanted a wall version.  I've gotten quite adept at MS Word tables lately, so I made one.

Enjoy.  I think I'm going to make mine neon green. 

EDIT: In a couple of minutes I made a horizontal version too.  If, like me, you ordered a number line only to find out it was discontinued (really?), you might need one of these as well.

EDIT 2: I shouldn't do school stuff late at night. In the first version, I managed to make the vertical number line upside down. It's fixed now. I could really use a proofreader! :)
How do you approach students' misconceptions with integers?

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Happy Thought Worth Recording

This morning, my assistant principal did an informal observation in my class at the end of first period.  He walked in around the time I had decided the kids were not really grasping the introduction of negative exponents we'd done.  They had a really hard time seeing a pattern emerging.  I knew their number sense was poor, but I'd underestimated how poor when they had trouble seeing that 32, 16, 8, 4, 2, 1, 1/2, 1/4,... was a sequence of numbers divided by two from one term to the next.   

We were working on whiteboards.  Questions like "write x^-3 with a positive exponent" were mostly successful, but God forbid I give them x^2 • y^-5.  That wasn't flying.  We worked them through step by step, had students explaining their reasoning, etc.  At one point, I told them to stop and erase; we needed to go back because we were lost. 

So, the lesson was tanking.  There was no way the students were ready to be independent and they were reaching or at their frustration point.  Mercifully, we got to the end of class with a few of the easier problems.  I didn't give homework knowing it would just lead to bigger problems. 

You might be wondering why I called this a "happy" thought.  I dismissed the class and let out a disgusted sigh when the kids were all gone.  My AP asked why.  I explained I'm frustrated when they need more time to get a concept than I hoped because it puts me further behind in the unit schedule that I didn't establish but must adhere to.  He reminded me, "But your instruction was good."  I knew this logically but I hate that I'm going to have to finish this unit in a week and I'm roughly a week behind.  Still feeling bummed, I checked my mailbox 15 minutes later to find a personal note thanking me for the lesson and telling me negative exponents aren't so scary anymore.  The write-up was complimentary.  And when I saw my AP tonight, he told me that he was glad that's how he'd started his day. 

This was a happy thought because my AP helped me feel good about my teaching in spite of the results in the moment.  He pointed out that I was using good strategies.  If I remember this as a "not yet" moment, I can be happy with it. 

In writing this up, I've decided that tomorrow I'll have the students make additional charts on powers of 3 and 4 like we did for powers of 2.  That should help them solidify the pattern.  Then I'll tell my story of happy positive exponents and sad negative exponents.  And I'll use this cartoon to seal the deal. 

What made you happy today?

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Back to Back

Today was a busy review day for my Algebra I class before their first quiz tomorrow.  We started with "Problem Master" which is really my name for Kate Nowak's speed dating.  I can't use that name in middle school!  They had great success with the structure on the first time.  In one class, it was an absolute God-send because I was able to sit with a student who had missed the last two days and get her caught up on the lessons she'd missed in just a few short moments.  This time, students had to write the equation for a linear function.  The cards I used are linked in this post. 

Later in class, we did a "Back to Back" activity that I took from MissCalcul8.  Except, her activity is for finding midpoint.  Lucky for me, I could just swap out the directions and use everything else as-is.  I had the students either rearrange desks or sit on the floor back to back while they were solving so they couldn't see their partner's solution until they were done the question.  It was a fun structure that I'll use again. It was also the first time I got to use the clipboards from my redditgifts Santa.  Thanks mystery donor! 

What are your favorite review activities?

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Two weeks down!

How is it possible that I've already been in school for two weeks?  I am not really sure, but I know that time is passing by at a rapid speed.  I have a few things that have changed this year. 

1. I moved to a different classroom.  The new room is many times superior to the old room.  My school was originally open concept with large areas for 4 classes that have since been divided with metal walls.  Two interior classrooms are on the hallway with no natural light and act as a hallway to the exterior classrooms that actually have windows and outside doors. I moved from a large interior classroom shaped like a trapezoid with no closet to an almost-as-large rectangular classroom with natural light and no one passing through my room.  It's been great so far.  I miss two things about my old room: my amazing next door neighbor who was great to talk to between classes for a moment of sanity after a rough class and being on hall duty so as to get to see all of the students passing by. 
2. I took on the role of grade level team leader.  This means I get to organize our weekly meetings and act as a liaison to the administration.
3. Curriculum.  There will be a year, eventually, when none of the curriculum changes from one year to the next.  I'm on year 7 and that's not happened yet.  I would just like to get better at one curriculum instead of constantly changing what I'm doing.
4. I am buying a house this month.  I saw it and put in a contract the weekend before school started.  I will close at the end of the month.  So, I'm packing boxes every weekend until then! 

On a totally different note, I wanted to say how much I'm enjoying my students this year.  I have confidence it is going to be a great year.  Unfortunately, they've already realized I'm nice.  Crud.  Can't I have them fooled just a little bit longer?

I assigned my students the “Numbers About Me” project that I first heard of from Sarah at Everybody is a Genius. This is my second year giving the project and I feel like my students’ creativity came out much more this year.  Last year, I got a lot of “my birthday is…” and “my soccer jersey number is…” but this year the kids have stepped up the game and gotten creative, some actually doing math to figure out facts. 

Here are some of the clever ideas I’ve seen:

·      BMI

·      Name ranking based on Social Security information

·      Birth weigh

·      Height as a portion of a mile instead of feet and inches

·      Ethnic heritage

·      Food consumption (“I once ate 5.5 tacos” or “I usually eat 3/8 of a pizza.”)

·      Fraction of the population (“I am 1/x of the people to live in our town.”)

·      Age in decades instead of years

·      Sports stats like batting averages

·      “Once I spent 3 hours straight on FaceTime.”

·      Number of minutes spent in an airplane this summer

·      Miles from home to favorite summer vacation destination
One reason I love this project is that I get to know what students want to tell me about themselves.  If they're not comfortable sharing a certain statistic, they don't have to.  Said differently, I learn what my students value.  Many of them had photos of their siblings on their notebooks; those are students whose family is really important.  I had a student lose a family member the week before school started.  It was heartbreaking to see "There are x people in my family" on that notebook because I know how painful it must have been for the student to write that sentence. Other students focused on their sports stats; I know they're serious about being athletes. 

How do you get to know your students at the beginning of the year?

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

Friday, August 22, 2014

Quick tip for to-do lists

Do you ever feel like you have so many things to do in your classroom before the students arrive that you can't even begin to list them all in detail? I know I do. Add to that the feeling that each time I look up, I see something else that needs to be done, and I find myself overwhelmed. For me, school starts on Tuesday. I stayed late tonight but my principal insisted that those of us who stayed after he left leave together so no one was alone in the building. Everyone else was ready to go at 8:30 and I still had TONS to get done. Even writing a list would have taken too long. My solution? I stood in one spot, grabbed my cell phone, and recorded a video of the room while making a 360. Now, I can look at the 30 second clip on the weekend several times and make sure that I've done as much here at home as I can possibly do in order to make Monday as smooth as possible. So, if you don't have time to write a to-do list, make a to-do video. How do you make it easier to work from home? Mathematically yours, Miss B

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Ways I use dice in my classroom

Sarah H. recently posted a photo of some items she got from a colleague, mostly large foam dice.  She asked how she can use the dice in her trig class.  I thought that was a great question and I decided to write about several ways I use dice in my class.

1. Teaching probability.  Duh.

2. Using this game board.  I can turn a set of questions into a deck of cards and students can play the game.  Everyone in the group does the problem individually, they discuss as a group, anyone with a correct answer rolls.  I'm always amazed at how much more willing kids are to do the same work when I disguise it as a game.  There are 4 versions of the board in this file: with or without directions and either in color or black and white. 

3. Assign meaning to each side of the die by typing up a key.  Students roll the dice and do the associated action.  Examples: operations on polynomials (add, subtract, multiply, divide, classify, factor, etc), trig functions (sin, cos, tan, sec, csc, cot). Here's one I used for quadratic functions that uses 6- and 12-sided dice (though you can easily change it so as not to need 12-sided dice).  Thanks to my best friend for a donation of cool dice from her Dungeons and Dragons days. 

4. This one is still not classroom-tested, so proceed carefully.  I tested it at home and I think it's a green light.  Mailing labels (like Avery 5160) are able to stick to the foam dice I bought at Dollar Tree and also unstick neatly.  That means I could write questions, equations, terms, etc. and print them on labels to stick to the dice.  At the end of the activity, I can remove the labels (possibly stick them back on the sheet for next year) and reuse the dice for a later activity.

5. As a French teacher, I've made a class set of subject pronoun dice by taking a Sharpie to some foam dice.  These big dice (roughly 2.5") are in two-packs at Dollar Tree.  I've seen red, blue, black, and yellow.

Do you use dice in your classroom?  How?

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

Friday, August 8, 2014

A busy day in August

I don't think I'm the only teacher who ramps up her activity level just prior to the beginning of the school year.  I have about one and a half weeks of vacation time before I have to report back to school.  My parents came for a short visit this week so we could visit and go to the beach, which is much closer to my house than to theirs.  They left around 9am today and I have been going non-stop for the last twelve hours, not my usual summer speed.  Let me recap.

I baked two batches of brownies, a batch of muffins, and a loaf of quick bread for two parties I'm attending on Sunday. 

I did two loads of laundry.

I made curtains for my new classroom's windows.  I'm so thrilled to have a classroom with windows to the outside world, but I also need curtains to block out potential distractions since my room doesn't have blinds installed.  Before making the curtains, I went to school to measure the windows (on the outside of the school, because the building is closed to teachers until the 18th.) 

I took my recycling to the recycling center.  (No curbside pick up in my town and we have to sort recyclables by type.  I'd love to enter the modern era on this.)

I found a new owner for an old side table I had and delivered it to her house.

I won about 5 levels of Diamond Digger Saga.  (Hey, a girl has to have SOME downtime!)
I researched houses for sale and got in touch with my Realtor to schedule a showing of one with some potential. 

I did a mani/pedi so I'll be dolled up for my cousin's wedding tomorrow.

And, I'm about to make three cards: one for the wedding I'm attending tomorrow and one for each of the parties I'm attending on Sunday. 

Shew!  It's crazy how busy I become when I feel summer slipping away.  Next week, I need to fit in a kayaking trip one day since I haven't been this season.  I'm also going to go through several boxes.  I'm on a continual quest to purge my house of things I don't need or want, especially since I'm trying to move to a new home. 

Do you find your level of activity changes during the summer?

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

Monday, August 4, 2014


When I was a student, I loved shopping for school supplies.  In fact, I liked it much more than shopping for back-to-school clothes.  My mom instilled the importance of getting a good deal, so I wasn't one of the kids with the Lisa Frank collection or fancy (and banned) Trapper Keeper.  But, I always carefully chose my notebooks and binders to coordinate with the subject.  Math class was always green and I remember in tenth grade that I managed to find a binder in each color of the rainbow for my seven classes.  Once I selected my favorite pencils and pens (in high school, Bic Velocity), I  labeled everything before the first day.  There was also always a box under my bed with extra supplies in case something ran out during the year.  You could say I was a little obsessive.  :)

It's no surprise, then, that as a teacher I love choosing, organizing, and labeling my school supplies.  When I started using Interactive Notebooks last year, I knew I wanted them to be color coded.  Everything I use for my classes is color coded pink/purple, green, blue, or red.  So, I decorated my notebooks last year using scrapbooking papers and washi tape.  I was back at it today and so happy I remembered I had some cool Parisian-themed papers, even if they don't match the color scheme.

The ruler washi tape measures accurately.  How cool is that?  97 cents at Walmart!

This mathy paper is my favorite.  I bought a 25-sheet pack and I'll be sad when it's gone. 

My homeroom got the boring one.  I liked the pink leopard print paper I used last year much better.

Isn't she adorable?  I'm glad I remembered I had this paper and so glad Mom bought it for me a while ago.  This will be for French I.

What do your notebooks look like? 

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

Friday, August 1, 2014

TMC Days 3 and 4- July 26 and 27, 2014

This is my third and final TMC recap post.  If you missed the first two, you can read them here and here

I finally got into the evening social scene on the last night (silly introversion made me sit out the first few nights) so I didn't get this post written up right away.  Forgive me; some details are now a little fuzzy!

Saturday began with some announcements and our final day of morning sessions.  My team pulled together our quadratics lesson rather nicely, I think.  You can see all of the lessons on the TMC webpage

"My Favorites" were numerous the last two days.  Let's see if I can recap them all. 

Jenn (@Fibanachos) encouraged us to say, "Show me another way."  She demonstrated a part-whole relationship diagram rectangle and how to use factor/product triangles with formulas. 

Pam (@pamjwilson) went through many favorites: chalk talk, Making Thinking Visible, thinking routines, 2-minute assessment grid, writing with highlighters under black lights, ghosts in the graveyard (from Tales from the Spring), Grudge (from Nathan Kraft), and Plickers.

Max Ray spoke about enCompass, happening at Drexel next week. 

@heather_kohn shared some strategies to help ELL students such as having students take turns reading a question, making a comment or asking a question, clarifying and giving positive feedback.  She said doing this in partners instead of large group can promote literacy. Cut and grow was another strategy in which students take a response (theirs or a canned one) and cut it apart to make space to write in more details. 

Andrew (@Froynboy) had the most clever seating idea I've ever heard of.  He assigned each desk (and therefore each student) a 90s hip hop star, complete with picture.  He grouped the artists logically and would sometimes call on a table by playing a snippet of one of their songs.

Cindy (@johnsonmath) is better known as the "Conic Card Lady."  She shared her philosophy with us all.

Meg (@mathymeg07) showed some ridiculously awesome Word shortcuts that I totally need to set up before I get back to school.  She uses macros to "teach" Word some often used math speak.  For example, she has word autocorrect pi/2 into mathematical notation.  How awesome is that?

Then it was time for Desmos and Eli Luberoff (@eluberoff).  He told us about some awesome new features coming to Desmos really soon and let us play with a new lesson.  I'm most excited to hear that regression is coming soon.  :)

In the afternoon, I went to Chris Shore's (@mathprojects) session on his nationally recognized lesson, "Princess Dido and the Ox Skin."  It combines a need to know area, perimeter, and circumference plus conversions between units. 

Then, I had volunteered to lead a flex session about interactive notebooks.  It was really informal, just getting people to share what their successes and failures were and getting neophytes the opportunity to ask questions of those with some experience.

Then it was 5 o'clock and back at the hotel, we finished the Ox Skin lesson. 

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That's me, fourth from the left, in the green dress.  Thanks, Hedge, for the photo that I stole from your Twitter page!  I promise we weren't making crop circles! 
After the encircling of the hotel with the "ox skin," we headed back inside where I plopped down on the floor with a whole bunch of other "serial INB" people as Julie dubbed us!  That's right, we're so serious about this conference that we continue it in several sessions "after hours."  Around 10:00, I finally went up to my room. 

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Photo stolen from Julie's Twitter page.  Thanks, y'all, for posting the pics!

 The next day, we finished up with about 90 minutes of additional My Favorites. 

Sebastian (@s_speer) shared several number sense games he uses with his middle school students.  They will be posted to the wiki.  

Anthony (@aanthonya) talked about Stats Mafia and absolute value blackjack.  I love that he pulls out a green felt table for his seniors to play on!  

Hannah S. talked about her method of collecting cell phones when students shouldn't have them.  First, she hands them an envelope.  They are to write their name on the envelope and seal the phone inside.  If they refuse, she gives them a card that basically says they understand that they will face further consequences and accept those consequences.  

Jasmine (@jaz_math) shared her "Tabletop Twitter" questions for opening the school year.  She also does a Quadrilateral Traits dating game to summarize characteristics of quadrilaterals. 

Bob and Shelli talked about Stat Key.  Hello, stats units everywhere.  This is a great resource as data is already there and it's possible to quickly switch between several representations.  

I shared my love of the True Colors Personality Test and how it helped me know what kinds of activities would most appeal to my students. 

Dylan: "Deep problems have few steps but one insight."

Glenn wanted us to buy our own domain names.  I understand his point about it making you seem like a true professional instead of a hobbyist, but a few hundred dollars a year is not worth it to me. 

Chris Shore shared his Ox Skin lesson.

Elissa (@misscalculate) shared her "two nice things" which I feel compelled to do next year.  Anytime someone says something unkind, they must immediately say two nice things about that person.  If they say, "But there aren't two!" then they get to come up with four.  Elissa also suggested taking card sort activities and things that are similarly difficult to store and placing them in small plastic tubs labeled by unit.  This needs to happen pronto in my room.  I've hesitated to spend the money.  

Sam (@samjshah) shared his school's math and science journal.  If I thought I had the time to organize this next year, I'd be on it.  

John (@jstevens009): "There is no right answer, no wrong answer, only answers that lack justification."  

Finally, I had the chance to witness the world freehand circle champion in action.  Thanks for sharing your skills with us, Alex.  

Lisa closed the session with an emotional speech and announced that next year we'll be meeting up at Harvey Mudd College outside Los Angeles!  See you in CA!!!

What was your favorite part of #TMC14? 

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

Headbands (Hedbandz) for the classroom

Made4Math...on a Friday!
It's kind of funny to me that "Hedbandz" ever became a game that people pay for since I remember playing it years ago with a Post-it stuck to each player's forehead.  I suppose the lack of set-up time and ability to reuse the cards gives it some worth.

If you're not familiar with the game, each player has a mystery card that they're trying to guess by asking the other players yes/no questions.  You win by guessing your card correctly with the least number of questions. 

If you look around the internet, there are plenty of teachers who are using this game in their classrooms.  MaryJennifer, and Sam have high school math versions.  For the past couple of months, ever since we played the real version at youth group, I've been looking for something to inexpensively replicate the reusable headbands.  I knew I could use strips of construction paper, but they would have to be replaced each time we played the game.  I thought about stretchy elastic headbands but thought they might be really uncomfortable.  I almost got cheap sunglasses and put Velcro dots on the bridges but decided I didn't want to have to Velcro each set of cards, nor did I want to invest $30 for this game.  I kept cruising Dollar Tree for ideas.  Yesterday, I happened upon 3 packs of foam visors. 

This has to be the simplest #Made4Math ever.  Take a visor, add a paper clip and a card, and you're good to go!  $10 for a class set is within my budget.  Totally dorky?  Yes, and I think that's probably part of the charm.  If the students wear them like visors are supposed the be worn, the taller students are going to have to tilt their heads down so the shorter students can see the cards.  Better is to wear the visors upside down (think "tiara") and the cards will be almost vertical. Similar visors are on Amazon here

A silly mock-up, but you get the idea.

I know I'll use this for several topics in math and in French.  Two sets of cards are in the document below, one for graphing linear equations and one for vocabulary related to functions and equations. 

How could you use this game with your students?

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

Friday, July 25, 2014

TMC Day 2- Friday, June 25, 2014

Day 1 of #TMC14 was great.  Day 2 made it even harder to choose sessions.  There were literally three or four things I wanted to do in each slot.  We need more than three days or to record the sessions for viewing later!

We started with morning announcements and another round of My Favorites.
1. Edmund Harriss (@gelada) started by sharing the message that even counting is hard and was overall SO entertaining to listen to.  Wait for his forthcoming poster; it's spectacular.
2. Christine Sullivan (@mathiechris) shared her love of using an online plan book called
3. Bob Lochel (@bobloch) shared an icebreaker related to what he called "Meaningful Adjacencies."  Essentially, students list their five favorite current TV shows on an index card and are tasked with placing their cards as close as possible to the cards of others they have things in common with.  This is the same way the names of the victims were carved into one of the 9/11 memorials in NYC.  Pretty neat!
4. Glenn Waddell (@gwaddellnvhs) shared that an old smart phone can become a great (free) video camera for your classroom.  And...bonus...notching a slit in the bottom of a cup and placing it on a table upside down makes a pretty great tripod.  Genius!
5. Justin Lanier suggested two books by John Holt: Why Children Fail and Why Children Learn.  They gave him three major insights: 1. Look around (be conscious of your students at all times; you'll learn about them even when they're being quiet) 2. Teach crazy (acknowledge the leaps we expect students to take and that the logic of what we're teaching isn't always on the surface) 3. Trust children.
6. Michael Pershan (@mpershan) was there to plug Global Math Department, something I'm totally under-utilizing at the moment, and to have us fill in a demographic survey about the TMC participants.
7. Karim Ani (@karimkai) shared Mathalicious.  Thanks to Mathalicious for offering us a free trial; the good news for you is that my school is already paying for several licenses for teachers because I told them how awesome your lessons are!
Shew, that was a lot of favorites!

Next up, Dan Meyer's keynote (@ddmeyer).  What can I say?  He's such a good speaker.  Dan shared lots of data about the MTBoS and TMC participants.  Nothing's really conclusive, except that men and women are represented about equally.  It was interesting to look at what he pulled together and also to see how many fewer teachers seem to blog than to tweet. 

Chris Shore's (@mathprojects) presentation on "How to Teach Those Kids" could be its own post.  Oh, so much good stuff there.  My biggest takeaway is that I'm too lenient.  I knew this.  I knew I needed to address it.  Something in the way Chris phrased things just made it sink in all the more.  My classroom needs to become a classroom with "no options."  In other words, you do your work.  You didn't do it?  Guess what, you still need to.  And I'll make your life more difficult unless you get it done.  He also talked about cumulative tests.  While I don't currently do those, I get similar exposure to previous content in my math maintenance.  Boot camp, a remediation effort specific to each student was also an interesting idea.  It may be hard to get students to get past the whining, "It's not fair that I have to do twice as much work as he does," but I've never cared much about that whining anyway.  The idea is to get all of the kids to the finish line.  Take a coaching mentality.  Finally, Chris wanted to talk about a new grading/reward policy but I think he ran a little short on time and I'd be interested to hear more about that aspect of his success.  I feel like I do a great job of reaching 95% of my students, but I'm aiming for 100%.

Finally, Jason Valade (@jay2thavee) shared some techniques for editing together video clips.  He suggests videos of 6-8 minutes based on interviews he's done with students.

For dinner, I went with Greg (@mathtans), John (@Math_CS_Teach), and Kathryn (@kathrynfreed) -yay for name twins!  It was totally random; we all ended up in the lobby without definitive plans.  After a few minutes of randomly waiting, I said, "I've got room for 4 more people.  Follow me if you want and we'll just pick something."  We went to a sandwich/salad/smoothie place and had a great 90-minute or so chat sharing our best tips and a good bit of ed psych.  Kathryn absolutely has to blog about her circle paper passing activity.  I hadn't talked to Greg or John before then, so it was awesome to meet some new people.  Greg has written these awesome function stories that I can't believe I've missed for years.  John is a career changer who will be starting his first full year in the classroom this fall.  I'm so impressed that he made the trip to #TMC14 as a beginning teacher!  This dinner and several other experiences this week have shown me that one of the coolest things about #TMC14 is that all the teachers here have so much in common that you can have a conversation with anyone just after meeting them.  Within an hour, you feel like you've known each other for years! 

What would you share as a "my favorite" here at TMC?

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

TMC Day 1, July 24, 2014

Hi from Jenks, OK, which I've quickly learned is home to the Trojans.  They're very proud of their mascot around here; the high school has it's own spirit wear store and even some local businesses are "Trojan" whatever.  It's quite a change for this small town girl! 

Thanks to everyone who spent so much time organizing this event.  I'm already impressed! We got cute swag bags at check in, the rooms are labeled for every session.  (I'm a little mad at myself now for not taking a second to photograph the sign on my classroom before my presentation.)

We started this morning with an overview of the schedule then jumped right into our morning sessions.  I selected the Algebra I session, thinking that I would like more collaboration with Algebra I since I am the only person at my school who teaches Algebra I.  We started by talking about what our favorite assessments are.  I wish we'd talked about what an assessment is (and is not) since based on the examples given, I don't think we all share a common definition; perhaps I'll ask my group for their thoughts tomorrow.  Speaking of groups, we are working in groups of four to develop assessments and lessons around a topic within Algebra I.  I chose to work on quadratics because that's such a meaty unit and one that has so many exciting applications. We're talking about building a model rubber band cannon to use to collect and analyze quadratic data. 

Next, we had a lunch break.  I went to the grocery store, hit up the salad bar for a Caesar chicken salad and fruit, and decompressed.  I needed some alone time to get ready for presenting in the afternoon.  (Hello, I'm an introvert and my name is @iisanumber!)

After lunch, we had our first "My Favorites" sessions.  These are 5-20 minute presentations in which people share a tidbit from their classroom that they love.  Chris Shore (@MathProjects) shared his idea of using the Rodin sculpture "The Thinker" to encourage problem solving and persistence. 

Rebecka Peterson (@RebeckaMozdeh) shared her "Friday letter" in which students can write her a letter in place of a warm-up on Friday and she writes a personal letter back to each of them over the weekend!  It sounds like an amazing way to build trust and relationships with students.  Rebecka also shared her project in which students studied famous Mathematicians.  I liked her second version in which students selected a quotation from the mathematician and wrote about it; what a great language arts connection.  Sarah Martin (@sarah3martin) shared her "Window Math" which is a weekly problem she posts on the window next to the door in her classroom.  Students earn prizes for being right, with better prizes awarded when less students are correct, to prevent cheating.  John Mahlstedt (@jdmahlstedt) shared how important it is to share autobiographical info with students to build relationships; it even helped him meet his wife!  Also, write the date as a math problem to make kids work for it and practice some mental math skills.   

We had a keynote speech from Steve Leinwand (@steve_leinwand) next.  His big message was that the teachers at #TMC14 are the future.  He talked about the importance of having students defend their answers by asking them to convince everyone that they're correct.  Multiple representations, multiple methods. 

Following the keynote, there were two sessions and about 6-10 choices per session.  First, I went to Hedge's (@approx_normal) stats session geared for middle school teachers.  She proposed two ways to generate data: running stairs and making PVC marshmallow guns.  The PVC guns were fun; I wonder how much of an investment it would be to make that happen?  Maybe I can find a plumber who can save me scraps.  The stairs were interesting; unfortunately I don't have a staircase anywhere at my school.

The last session was my turn to present.  I had a packed room; about 10 people didn't have desks.  I shared my school's "Math Maintenance" warm-up strategy.  You can see the PowerPoint and other documents in my last post.

Then, after a short rest at the hotel, I went to dinner with four other ladies, two from Virginia and two from Iowa and since then I've been relaxing.  It's amazing how tired this awesome conference is making me after just one day!

If you're at #TMC14, what's the best part been so far?  If you're not here, what else would you like to know about?

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Twitter Math Camp 2014- Jenks, OK

Thanks for visiting.  I'm so excited to be at Twitter Math Camp this week.  I'm sharing a strategy called "Math Maintenance," a ten-minute warm-up that is a spiral review meant to help students keep sharp on skills from throughout the year. 

Here's the PowerPoint:

This is an example I've used with my Math 8/Maryland Algebra I class. 

And here's a template to help you get started.

How do you start class each day?

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

Friday, July 18, 2014

A bargain "toolbox" design

Since at least 2012, I've seen "teacher toolboxes" floating around Pinterest.  Just doing a Google image search for that term yields a plethora of redesigned Lowe's drawer units.  I liked them but I felt they wouldn't quite work with my style.  Honestly, I'm lucky if my pen makes it back into a pencil cup immediately after use and I doubted that I'd be able to keep putting pencils and pens back in drawers.  I also don't keep all of my supplies in the same place.  Some live on my desk, some live on the cart where my document camera sits, and others are used infrequently enough that they stay in cabinets.
Just a few of the toolboxes on the Internet

Since I'm moving to a new classroom in the fall and I'm considering gaining classroom space by exiling my desk to the attached closet (which is a huge room), I thought a small toolbox could be useful.  My binder clips and paper clips are perpetually mixed up and I can't always find the size I need. 

I picked up a few mini two-drawer units from Dollar Tree.  That store has so many good teaching items at such a reasonable price.  The inside dimensions of these drawers are about 3" wide, 4" deep, and 1 1/2" tall.  They're not going to hold writing utensils, but that suits my needs just fine. 

I used a few small dots of hot glue to attach the drawer units together.  When you do this, I would suggest removing the drawers (bend the frame ever so slightly).  Put the glue on the bottom of one unit, then place that unit on top of the next unit.  This will keep you from putting glue where it could interfere with the movement of the drawer.

Next, I cut labels to size to fit each drawer.  If you want to make your own, they should be 1 5/8" tall and 3 1/2" wide.  If you want the sizing already done, feel free to download my file below and edit it to list the items you need, picking a font and color that you like.  Use cardstock and the labels will fit nicely in the front of each drawer.  There's sort of a little lip in front that holds the paper upright, so adhesive would be optional.  You could use a little double-sided tape, glue dots, or the like to hold the paper in place if you're afraid it will shift, but mine are loose so I can change out the contents quickly if I decide to. 

Here's the finished product (in a poor photo, sorry)!  Total cost: $3 plus tax.  Time to link up to #made4math!
I have designs on adding a few more drawers if I can find more at another Dollar Tree.   I brainstormed all my ideas in the file below.  The font is "KG What the Teacher Wants" and can be downloaded free for personal use. 

Have you made any organizational changes for next year?

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Interactive Notebook Professional Development Presentation

I've been leading PD at my school for several years now; I think I did my first session back in 2010, but most times I've been part of a team unless I was just presenting to math teachers from my building.

My county organized a "technology conference" this week.  Teachers signed up to teach sessions and other teachers were able to select sessions to attend.  We all get paid, which is a fabulous perk!  I hesitated to present because I wasn't sure what I had enough knowledge to present on for three hours.  That's a long amount of time to fill with one topic!  I knew I was proud of my Interactive Notebooks, so I decided to present them and to have my participants make their own ISN about ISNs before I set them free to explore the internet and find things they could use or more inspiration for their classrooms.

Here's my presentation.  If you're thinking of getting started with ISNs, feel free to go through it and ask any questions you may have.  I'm also going to post pictures of the pages we did about interactive notebooks.  Know that they're blank because they're from my example book.  Everyone filled them out as we went through the presentation.

 Here are the handouts that go into the notebook:

And here are the notebook pages.  Remember, they're not filled in because my students were adults and I left the notetaking up to them as I went through my slides. 

One of the coolest things about today was talking to colleagues in all disciplines about how they would use ISNs.  I had a cosmetology teacher, an alternative school teacher (for students who are expelled from a traditional setting), special education teachers, an art teacher, math teachers, and ELA teachers.  Everyone today taught at the secondary level.  I will give this presentation again tomorrow and I know there are one or two elementary teachers registered, as well as more secondary teachers.  

What questions do you have about implementing ISNs?

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

That kid... all have that kid.  You know, the one who grates on every nerve in your body.  The one that somehow knows every button to press.  The one that seems to invent new ways to get in trouble and is always being clever at circumventing your attempts to get him to actually do his work.  Or is it just me?  :)

Today I was surprised by a visit from that kid from my first year of teaching.  I still remember writing a referral which included the term, "musical nose blowing."  Yes, indeed.  There were other antics, but that moment stood out in particular. 

This student is now in college.  He came in to visit today and told me he's had a successful year with good grades and is looking to transfer to a school closer to home.  He's studying a math and science heavy major and doing well.  Yay! 

Of all the kids to come back, visit unexpectedly, and give me a big hug, I couldn't have been more surprised that it was this student.  And a good surprise it was! 

Tomorrow, I get to go see a great group of students graduate from high school.  I haven't seen most of them since they left 8th grade, but I'm excited to get to watch them graduate to the next chapter!

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Interactive Notebook Supplies

Next month, I'll be presenting my use of interactive notebooks and Foldables to teachers in my district at our Technology conference.  (Admittedly, the "technology" is a stretch, but I'm presenting in four sessions, so I guess it was something they thought people would want to hear about anyway.)  I'll be presenting on implementing these notebooks and on making Foldables with MS Word.

@misscalcul8 asked, "Anyone have a list of supplies needed for interactive notebooks?" and I thought I'd respond.  It's a good time of year to reflect on what supplies I've used now that the year is wrapping up and it's time to write next year's supply list.  I'll break it into two categories based on what I provide versus what students provide; based on the availability of resources in your school and the socio-economic status of the families in your school, you may make other choices.  More than half of my students receive free or reduced meals, so I try to keep parents' out-of-pocket costs very low.  My students could get these supplies for $2 total at Walmart last summer. 

Students provided:
  • 1 composition book, cardboard (not plastic) cover strongly preferred. 
  • 2 rolls Scotch tape (label these with a me!)  We attached something to almost every page, so if you expect to write directly in the notebook for lots of pages, one roll might be sufficient. 
  • a few colored pencils or highlighters (They don't need an entire set; three colors will accomplish almost any color-coding you plan to do.  Encourage kids to bring left overs from previous grades if they have them at home.)

I provided:
  • Lots of glue sticks.  On the order of 100, I think.  Check Walmart a week or two after school is in session for mark downs.  You could have students provide these.  I chose to have glue sticks available so no one had an excuse to not attach a page, but I also NEVER gave out tape.  I wasn't willing to buy hundreds of rolls of tape, and the kids largely understood when I explained I was not going to buy hundreds of rolls of tape.  Most of my kids mooched off their neighbors if they really wanted tape for a particular page.  Some teachers use liquid glue and have success.  I wasn't willing to wait for it to dry or to police the potential misuse of liquid glue, but it's incredibly cheap, so it's worth considering. 
  • Ziploc bags (one gallon size).  Every student had a labeled bag in which to keep their composition book if desired, plus any tape or colored pencils they'd brought in. I learned that 8th grade kids aren't adept at regular Ziploc bags; the slider kind would be a smart purchase. 
  • Storage space.  I had sturdy bins on a shelf where kids could leave their notebooks if they didn't need them for homework on a given night.  We're 160 days into the year and not one of my 80 math students has lost a notebook permanently.  A few have gone on short vacations, but they've returned!   
  • A class set of scissors (and trash bowls to minimize trips to the trash can)
  • A set of highlighters and/or colored pencils per table/group. (My kids just weren't all going to have these on their own due to finances, so I had some available to borrow.)
  • One stapler per table/group.  If you're going to buy these, do yourself a favor and spend the extra money to get the full-strip staplers.  I had no idea how much I would loathe the half-strip ones when I have to refill a few of the staplers every time we staple anything!  
  • Colored paper to help Foldables stand out. 
  • Gigantic rubber file bands.  They're about 7" long.  Punch a hole in the back cover of the book near a corner.  Loop the rubber band through.  Kids can use it to hold the book shut.  These can also be used to rescue a book that detaches from its cover.  Two students have had this happen this year and I was able to secure the cover by doubling one of these rubber bands around the middle of the book when unfolded. 
  • 6x9 manila envelopes with clasps.  Glue on the inside of the back cover for works-in-progress that don't get glued down immediately.  
Before you start to implement interactive notebooks, consider the physical space in your classroom.  How will your students manage the supplies that they need?  What procedures and physical layout choices can you implement to maximize the time that students spend learning (as opposed to gathering supplies)?

What is the most important school supply for your students?

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

Thursday, May 15, 2014


I submitted my National Board portfolio today.  Yay!  I've been working on it for months and I'm so glad to be done.  Results won't come in until December, so I'm just thrilled to be finished for now!

My evening was capped off by two former students, a junior and a senior, stopping by to see me.  They work with my school's after school program.  The senior remembered that I'd had her class write letters to themselves after listening to President Obama's first inauguration speech.  I promised to return them at graduation.  So, she came to ask if I still had them; graduation is in two short weeks.  In some kind of amazing miracle, I actually knew exactly where they were and went right to the file in my cabinet.  I pulled out the letters, handed hers over, and she read it to herself.  She was laughing at first, "Look at my handwriting!"  Then she started reading and was proud of herself; she accomplished the goals she set out for herself in 8th grade: learning a language and taking Calculus.  "I got a 5 on the AP test last year," she told me.  Then she stopped reading and teared up.  She handed the letter to her friend, who read the last part aloud.  "Give [my little sister] and Grandpa a hug."  The senior said, "Grandpa died in 9th grade." 

When I asked her about post-graduation plans, she told me she's going to my alma mater.  :)

That, friends, is what this profession is all about. Whether I get NBPTS certified or not, I took this as a sign that I am doing something right. 

Mathematically yours,
Miss B.

Monday, April 21, 2014

I need to blog...

So, I'm writing/editing NBCT portfolio entries today and I need a break from precision writing.  These next three weeks are going to fly by and I'm somewhat fearful that I'm not going to finish getting everything together the way in needs to be.

I thought I would tell you about a left side assignment gallery walk I did about a week ago.  First of all, you should know that I do Interactive Notebooks with the right side as teacher input and the left side as student output.  The thing is, I've just started ISNs this year and I had a hard time giving complete control over to kids for the left side, especially since I didn't know exactly how ISNs would pan out.  I love ISNs and I still think it's great that I wrote a list of LSA choices last summer, but  I think a few of my assignments are a little too "easy" and that I need to somehow make them more similar in the level of effort required before next year (or at least put some in a category that indicates they're going to earn at most an 80% if they're done as written). 

Anyway, I gave complete control over for an LSA on simplifying radical expressions.  It was mostly successful because it was their last assignment in that unit, so they had the big picture ideas down. 

When students brought their work in, we did a mini gallery walk in which they spent five minutes walking around and reading other students' books.  Then I asked students to nominate someone who did work that we should all see.  Nominees were invited to the document camera to share.  Kids are SO eager to brag on their classmates!  What made this valuable was that I wasn't the one initiating the praise; I also hadn't graded the assignments yet, so we saw what the students thought was quality work.  They selected the songs (including two versions of Katy Perry's Dark Horse rewritten as rules for simplifying radicals), the colorful pages, the comics, and other creative work.  I don't think anyone chose to highlight a page that was a plain problem set. 

I feel like when I start doing more LSAs next year that offer choice, I'm going to absolutely build in time to do this at the beginning of the year so that students can see exemplary work. 

I only have one picture right now, but I'll get some more.  Flashcards were popular choices; this student chose to write questions that we ask ourselves while solving on the flashcards.  She wrote answers and explanations on the back.  The orange is a pocket meant to hold them.  

How do you help students grow?

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

Monday, April 7, 2014

Not a math lesson...

...but a French lesson instead.  (Math teachers, see if you can adapt this activity to your classroom.)

I am primarily a math teacher, but this year I was afforded the great opportunity to also teach French I for one period a day.  It's really been a dream come true, though I can't say that I have everything quite figured out yet.  There are definitely some things that I need to do more/better/differently to get my French class to be more like I want it to be.  Having never student taught in French either, I was really green at the beginning of the year and finally feel like I have a decent handle on what my expectations should be.  In some areas, I've been way too lenient, and in others, I've been way too strict. 

Anyway, today's lesson was totally last minute and not something I'd planned out with any great thought.  I had introduced some new verbs at the end of last week and I wanted to practice them without a worksheet.  I wanted to play a game, but I have 26 students in the class and most games leave lots of students to not fully participate.  I also wanted to talk less than I normally end up talking.  So, I made my students play Pictionary with a twist.  It went like this:

1. I wrote up all of the verbs they've seen so far, one per index card.
2. I divided the class into two equal teams. 
3. I called two kids to the front to draw the verb on the whiteboard that I showed them from one of my cards. Several times, kids returned to their seats to look up the definition.  Perfect; that shows they're trying to learn! 
4. The kids in the audience had to call out the verb they thought was being drawn.  Any speaking in English meant disqualification for that team for that round.  This happened on the first round, and not again afterwards. 
5. The first kid to get the correct verb got to roll a large die (from Dollar Tree) that I have re-labeled with the six subject pronoun groups. 
6. The team that won the round recorded the corresponding number of points: je-1, tu-2, etc...
On the left: subjects and verbs.  In the middle: point values for each subject.  On the right: keeping score.
7. EVERY student writes a sentence using the subject and verb from that round, along with a logical object of their choice. 
Student work
What went well- engagement.  The kids were focused and trying to guess the verb as well as doing a good job recording what they needed to build sentences and using old vocab to finish them off with logical objects. Varying the point value based on the roll was a fun way to keep things lively, especially since I seemed to have more of my strong kids on one team. 

What needs improvement- clarity of instructions. For the written portion, I had many kids write me "sentences" in which the verb wasn't conjugated at all.  I assume my instructions were poor and I'll revisit this tomorrow.  I also know my kids are just still feeling new to the idea of conjugating verbs, even though they think that's all we do, so some of them may just be generally confused about how to conjugate these particular verbs.  We'll see tomorrow.   

Thanks for stopping by.  Math teachers, have you ever used Pictionary in your classroom?  (I used to use it every year in Geometry near the final exam because we had 300 vocabulary terms.)  Language teachers, what other games and activities would you suggest for conjugation?

Mathematically and linguistically yours,
Miss B