Like I did with my student teaching reflections and my blog posts from my first year of teaching and second year of teaching, I am compiling my more reflective blog posts from my third year of teaching high school math into a single post.
August 19, 2014 – Classroom Friendly Supplies Pencil Sharpener Review
I’m super excited about my new pink pencil sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies. I’ve seen this pencil sharpener touted as the “world’s best pencil sharpener” on pinterest for several years now. To be honest, I doubted how this could be true. After all, isn’t a pencil sharpener a pencil sharpener?
The answer to that question is a definite no! My electric pencil sharpener broke at the end of last year, and I needed to think about a replacement. I overheard Pam talking on Twitter about her pencil sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies. She highly recommended it, and I trust Pam. So, off to the website I went for more details. I soon found myself watching youtube videos of the pencil sharpener, and I decided I HAD to have one.
Troy, the owner of Classroom Friendly Supplies (who is a teacher himself), offered to send me a free pencil sharpener in exchange for a review on my blog. How kind! And, he even let me pick the color. Of course, I picked pink. 🙂
Full Disclosure: I received this product for free. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed in this blog post are my own.
For days, I eagerly awaited the arrival of my pencil sharpener. Finally, one day, I got back home from working in my classroom at school, and it was sitting on my front porch. Yay!
You’ll notice that I intentionally didn’t include my rather sad (read: dead) petunias in this pic. Sigh. A green thumb I do not have…
Inside the box, I found another box!
And, inside that box was my pretty, pink pencil sharpener.
I couldn’t wait to take out my pencil sharpener for a test drive.
Reasons People Hate Sharpening Pencils
* Too Loud
* Inconsistent Results
* Annoying to constantly have to pull out the pencil to check and see if it’s sharp enough yet
* You never know exactly when to empty the pencil sharpener
This sharpener fixes all these problems. It’s quiet. You can talk and sharpen at the same time. It holds your pencil at a constant pressure which means you get consistently amazing results. It stops sharpening your pencil at the perfect time. You can’t over sharpen your pencil. And, the drawer for the shavings is clear. So, you (or your students!) will know exactly when to empty it.
I loved my first experience sharpening a pencil with my new pencil sharpener so much that I commemorated the event with a selfie! Here’s me and the first pencil I sharpened with this awesome new sharpener.
Here’s my pencil sharpener in its new home on the window sill in my classroom.
So, you’re probably asking yourself what makes this pencil sharpener any different from a regular pencil sharpener. I could tell you, but I’m going to do one better than that and show you.
Yes, I made a youtube video of me sharpening a pencil. Thanks to Glen for sharing the trick for using a cup to hold your smart phone to film at #TMC14. That came in super handy.
[If the youtube video isn’t embedded, click here to view.]
If you’ve never met me in person, I would say that this video pretty well captures my personality. No wonder my students think I’m weird… And, I apologize in advance for saying the word “pinch” weirdly. This is really how I say the word. I didn’t realize it was a weird way to say it until someone pointed it out at #TMC14 during my session on hexaflexagons and mobius strips. Then, a student pointed it out when I was demonstrating how to use the pencil sharpener in class. Surely, I can’t be the only person in the world who pronounces “pinch” this way…
Also – please ignore my sunburn. I spent a few too many hours out in the sun at a car wash to raise money for prom. And, my allergies have left me with this stupid annoying cough. ‘
Ready to order your own pencil sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies?
Now, if you don’t want to take my word for it, let me share my sister’s experience with this pencil sharpener. She’s an art major, so she takes sharpening pencils VERY seriously. When I told her that I had just got a new pencil sharpener in the mail, she automatically assumed that I had ordered an electric pencil sharpener. When I shared that this was a hand crank pencil sharpener, she was not impressed. Still I took it by my family’s business one afternoon while running errands to show it to my mom and sister. Yes, I’m 24, and I still participate in show and tell. 🙂
I demonstrated the pencil sharpener, and my sister tried to act like it was nothing to get excited about. But, she then proceeded to sharpen EVERY single pencil that she could get her hands on in my mom’s office. I think that speaks volumes! This pencil sharpener is just fun to use.
So far, my students are LOVING it. As one student put it, “This is one cool gadget!” Or another, “Do you want me to sharpen your entire pile of pencils for you, Ms. Hagan?”
August 22, 2014 – First Day of School 2014 – Introductions, Circles, Rules, a Monkey, and More
This year I decided to change up how I went about Day 1 in my classroom. Considering the fact that I also changed up things last year for Day 1, you can safely say that I’ve never done Day 1 the same way twice. 🙂
I totally goofed on the math problem for the countdown. School pictures was in 10 days not 2 days! Totally should have been a 2 in the denominator. Luckily, none of my students noticed and showed up on Saturday for school pictures! 🙂
I greeted students in the hallway for the first day. My first year of teaching, I did a great job of spending passing periods in the hall. The math teacher across the hall from me was a first year teacher as well that year, so we offered each other lots of moral support. I spent a lot of time in the hall practicing names. When you teach in a school with less than two hundred students, there is an expectation that everybody knows everybody’s name. I’m not sure what caused it, but I was hardly out in the hall last year at all. Most of the time I would spent the passing periods at my desk trying to get organized for my next class. Or, I would sit at my desk and relish a moment of doing nothing. But, I feel like I missed out on seeing the kids that weren’t “my kids” that year.
This year, I’m determined to be a presence in the hall. I want to be that friendly face that tells students “Good Morning!” I want to keep in touch with the students who are in geometry this year. My freshman are taking advantage of my being in the hall by asking for reminders of where various classrooms are. Our schedules this year listed all of the room numbers as “Unknown,” so they have nothing to go by except the name of the teacher. We don’t have a ton of teachers, but there are three different floors. I can’t imagine being in a new school with new teachers and not being able to look up where my next class is located.
When students entered my classroom on the first day, this message was on the SMART Board. Algebra 2 and Trig classes got the same message. I just changed the name of the class.
The IQ circles are a new addition to my classroom courtesy of my mom and her awesome bargain hunting skills. I’m pretty sure she paid a dollar for the entire tub of these puzzlers.
Inside each box, there is a black, circular case. My students claimed that these looked like they held makeup!
And, inside each case are pieces to make a circle.
The box claims that there are more than 10 ways to build a circle out of these pieces. I dumped out the pieces of one of the puzzles to try. Fifteen minutes later, I still wasn’t able to put the circle together. I knew that it had to be possible because I had just dumped out a completed circle. I put the puzzle aside out of frustration, and my sister ended up completing it for me. We’re super competitive, so that made me feel great! To ensure that my students wouldn’t take the easy way out and try to cheat, I dumped all of the circle puzzles into their own individual ziplock bags. But, before I did that, I opened all of the puzzles up and took pictures of them in their solved states. I counted twelve different solutions in my box. Twelve different solutions and I couldn’t even find one on my own…
Students who picked up bag of tangrams were instructed to make a square using all of the tangram pieces. Students who picked up a bag of circle pieces were to make a circle. Some of the students tried to make circles out of the tangram pieces. That didn’t quite work out for them. Other students didn’t realize that they were supposed to build the circle in the black case. Students worked on these puzzles while I took roll and did some first day of school administrative stuff.
Our first day of school was on a Thursday, so this fit perfectly for Brain Teaser Thursday.
Students were still working on their puzzles when I began my introduction of myself. I had a few students who were able to complete the circle or square, but the majority of students were unable to complete them in the allotted time.
I shared with my students 30 Awesome Facts You Should Probably Know About Ms. Hagan. Some students listened better than others. Some were too involved with trying to solve their puzzles to pay much attention to me. Oh well. Sharing facts about myself led to some great conversations! It gave my students a view of me outside the classroom. I think they needed to be reminded that teachers are real people with real lives, too. 🙂
Next, I wanted a chance to get to know my students better. I’ve already taught approximately 40% of my students before. So, some I know quite well. Others I just met.
At #TMC14, I was part of Elizabeth’s Group Work Working Group. It was truly one of the highlights of my TMC experience. One of the activities we participated in was a classroom circle. Classroom circles are based on restorative practices. I’m not entirely sure what that means, but maybe it is enlightening to somebody? LOL. What I do know is that there is power in meeting in the circle format.
First, I had to teach my students how to make a circle. For classroom circles, this just means that everybody needs to be able to see everybody else in the circle. During this time, I allow students to stay in their seats, stand, or even sit on the furniture. If they make a square, that’s completely fine as long as everybody can see everybody.
Next, the rules of the circle: no talking unless you are holding the talking piece. At TMC, Elizabeth had a dodecahedron that she had knitted that we used as a talking piece. I can knit, but I haven’t found the time to sit down and knit my own dodecahedron yet. [Fun fact of the day: Before I was a math teacher blogger, I was a knitting blogger. Because it’s totally normal for a 15 year old to start writing a blog about knitting, right?] I knew that I wanted to do a classroom circle on the first day of school to let students introduce themselves. But, I didn’t really think it through and plan my talking piece. Scanning my room on the morning of the first day, I saw my stuffed monkey. He was a Valentine’s gift from a couple of students last year.
This will do. This monkey will become a sort of mascot for my class. I let my first hour name the monkey. They voted on Henry. So, if you’re in the circle, you can’t talk unless you’re holding Henry. Another rule follows from this: No Commenting. This is SO hard for me. When a student says something, I’m used to making some sort of comment. Students do have the option of raising their hand to indicate that they wish to have the talking piece. Once Henry is in their hands, they can speak.
Having just introduced myself, I told students that I now wanted to know more about them. We were going to go around the circle. Each person would say their name and a fact about themselves that they wanted to share with the class. Students also found the no commenting rule hard.
I love the circle structure for several reasons. Number one. I suck at classroom management. Keeping the room quiet and the students focused is hard for me. Number two. I love to have students share with the class. But, side conversations have a tendency to start, and I always feel bad that the later sharers receive less attention from the class as a result. The circle structure keeps everyone focused. One person has the talking piece. One person is the focus. That person is the focus as long as they feel they need to be. Some students shared something a quick fact. Others told a more involved anecdote. Every student listened to every other student. And, every student knew that they were being listened to. Every student got a chance to speak.
I’m modifying my Good Things routine this year based on classroom circles. We will create a circle before sharing. And, students will have to hold the monkey in order to share their good thing. I think this is going to be a positive change this year! I just need to work on the no commenting rule!
Now, my 4th hour Trig class had to be difficult. They decided that they didn’t like the monkey’s name. Instead of Henry, they decided that the monkey was a she and should be called Cinnamon. Do you realize how crazy you sound when you say things like, “You are not allowed to speak unless you are holding Cinnamon.” One student said he was going to go to the store and buy a container of cinnamon so he would always have the right to speak.
Since we’re over a week in school, here’s an update to the monkey situation. Downside to having a monkey as your talking piece: students tell other teachers in the building things like “Ms. Hagan has this monkey in her classroom, and it’s a stripper monkey. It hangs out on a pole. And, it even has a stripper name: Cinnamon.” NOT what I intended. 🙂
Next, I announced to my students that they needed to take out their cell phones. Some were hesitant to do this because they assumed that I was trying to trick them and was going to take them away if they got them out. Nope. I just wanted them to sign up for text message alerts from Remind.
I wrote the instructions for signing up on the board during meet the teacher night, but I think I had a grand total of one sign up as a result.
Next up: discussion of supplies for INBs. This year, I gave students a list of optional supplies for the first time. I provide glue, colored pencils, markers, highlighters, and dry erase markers for my students. But, over the past two years, I have found that some students wish to have their own. After all, markers that have been used by 100 students quickly become less than perfect. I’ve had several students in the past buy their own sets of markers or colored pencils, and they have seemed to be happy with that.
And, then comes the time to get serious. My 5 new classroom rules for this year. These are inspired by Harry Wong’s The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher. For students who have had me before, these are drastically different rules/consequences than I have ever had in my classroom.
Here are my consequences:
Students weren’t too thrilled with the consequences. They did seem to be more okay with them after I mentioned that names on the board would be erased at the end of each week. So, they can break one rule each week without punishment.
Next, I asked my students to write a tweet about what they thought intelligence was. I created the hash tag #IntelligenceIs for this. This confused my students SO much. Maybe it was the font I used??? They thought the I in “Is” was an L. “Ms. Hagan, what is Intelligencels?”
I’m also pretty sure that my students are not major tweeters because they had a ton of trouble understanding the meaning of 140 characters. In fact, one of my students even told me that twitter was not cool. Ummm…I beg to differ. 🙂
Here’s the strips I made for my students to write their #IntelligenceIs tweets on.
My first year of teaching, I had my students write #MathIs tweets. I feel like these were much more fun and enlightening to read than these #IntelligenceIs tweet strips. But, you never know until you try something new.
The idea behind #IntelligenceIs was to see what my students thought about intelligence in regards to growth mindset/fixed mindset. I was hoping to have time the first day to give my students a growth mindset quiz that I adapted from online, but we ran out of time. So, they didn’t get to see this terrifying slide until Day 2. 🙂
Oh, and I can’t forget to mention one of the most important things we did on the first day of school. I taught the students how to use my new pencil sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies!
I posted a full review of this awesome pencil sharpener complete with an enthusiastic how-to video of myself using this pencil sharpener on youtube. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to be a student in my class, this video should give you a good idea of that. If you decide to order one of these for your own classroom (and you totally should!) there’s a coupon code for 5% off your purchase at the bottom of my review.
After I sharpened a pencil in front of the class, I invited volunteers to come up and try the pencil sharpener. I was notified by one student that “This isn’t the 19th century any more. People use mechanical pencils nowadays, Ms. Hagan!”
Day 1 ended with a reminder of what happens when the bell rings.
This is a big change for me. I’ve overlooked it in the past when students got out of their seats and started lining up at the door. Not this year! I won’t dismiss students until they are all seated, all supplies are put away, and all the trash is picked up off the floor.
Day 1 was fun. I have an especially large, especially fun bunch of kiddos this year. I think it’s going to be a GREAT year!
August 27, 2014 – 30 Awesome Facts You Should Probably Know About Ms. Hagan
Inspired by John Mahlstedt and his My Favorites presentation at #TMC14, I made a slideshow of “30 Awesome Facts You Should Probably Know About Ms. Hagan” for the first day of school.
I still need to blog about the first day of school, but that’s a lot harder than just talking about myself. So, I thought you might want to learn these 30 awesome facts about me, too.
So, here we go. Hold on to your hats! It’s going to be an exciting ride that is chock full of random childhood photographs of yours truly.
For a lot of my students, I may be the first vegetarian they have ever met.
Vegetarianism was never a conscious choice. It just sort of happened to me. My dad’s family is vegetarian for religious reasons, but my dad isn’t. My mom’s family eats meat. When she was in her mid-twenties, she got sick from eating a bad hamburger and vowed to never eat meat again. That was before I was born. So, when my sister and I came along, we didn’t eat meat either. My parents made it clear to me growing up that I could choose to eat meat at anytime, but it honestly terrifies me. There’s so many rules and you have to handle it properly or you could die.
All year, my kids will quiz me on whether or not I can eat certain items. I do eat eggs and dairy products. Just no meat or seafood.
Students always seem to want to know how old I am. This is probably due to the fact that I look like I’m still in high school. And, I thought it would be best to just announce my relationship status on the first day of school.
I can’t believe I’m already starting my 3rd year in Drumright! I always take a little time to explain where I’m from since I’m not from Drumright. I didn’t even know where Drumright was when I got the call to interview here. I put stars on the map where I live now and where I grew up. It’s an hour and fifteen minute drive between the two towns. #TMC14 people will recognize Jenks on the map!
I talk about my sister a lot in class, so I wanted to introduce her day one.
And, here’s a random fact about me that you might not know.
I guess I should explain this one. Whenever I’m driving down the road, if I see a tractor, I feel compelled to try to guess the brand and model number of the tractor and then verify the results as I pass it. Does that make me officially weird? I come by it naturally. Growing up, my dad would point at tractors out the window and ask my sister and me what brand they were. My family runs a tractor salvage/component remanufacturing facility/machine shop. That means they build engines, transmissions, axles, final drives, shuttles, and more. My parents started taking me to work with them every single day from the time I was a couple of months old. I grew up around tractors. My childhood pictures have backdrops of tractor engines and backhoe buckets. In high school, I started working for my parents full-time during the summer. I answered the phones, handled accounts payable and accounts receivable, built the company website, arranged the shipping of our engines across the country, and ran errands. I continued working for them all through college. My parents offered to give me a job following graduation, but my passion isn’t in backhoes, loaders, and dozers. It’s in teaching.
I took for granted my first year of teaching that students knew that all public school teachers are required to have a college degree. I was able to attend TU on a full-ride scholarship for being a National Merit Scholar. I hope that sharing the fact that I went to college on scholarship will help encourage my students to apply for more scholarships! Then, I did something super scary. Something I’ve never really done before. I told my students about my blog. Am I insane? A few students had already found it. I don’t write anything that I’m ashamed of here. So, I don’t think it should be a problem. If I don’t want a student to read it, I probably shouldn’t be writing it.
Like my warning? Anything you say or do in my classroom may be posted on the Internet. This year, I have 41 students who I have taught previously. After hearing this announcement, many of them wanted to know if there was something about them on my blog. They were AMAZED that there are that may people out there in the world who would read a math teacher blog. Then, I rubbed the fact that I have more twitter followers than them in their faces. 🙂 This drives them INSANE.
I showed them this picture from Twitter Math Camp of our INB party. They wanted to know why we didn’t have chairs at the conference…
This is a question I’ve been asked several times by students. When did you decide to become a teacher? When I was around 8, somebody asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. My half-sister wanted to be a teacher at the time, so I copied her and announced that I wanted to be a teacher. Unlike most kids, I never changed my mind. Though, there was a short stint in the 7th grade where I toyed with the idea of becoming a journalist. But, that was only because I made a mild crush on the journalism teacher. I didn’t decide what grade level/subject I wanted to teach until I was a junior in high school. One day, I was looking up something to help me in my trig class, and I ended up on Math Teacher Mambo’s blog. I loved it. Bookmarked it. Told my teacher about it. Came back and read every single blog post she had written. Pretty soon, I started going through the comments to find other math teacher blogs to read. I’ve been obsessed for a while! The #MTBoS and I have long been friends!
Another common question is if I have any pets. I think the pictures speak for themselves on this one.
I adore puzzles!
And, if a student wants to bring me chocolate or leftovers from the food prep and nutrition class, I will not complain!
Of course, I had to tell them about my travels.
And, this is the point where non-math people probably start thinking I’m really weird. I call this foreshadowing. 🙂
I get to go to school on my birthday for the second year in a row! Woot! My birthday almost always falls on Thanksgiving Break. So, this is a special occasion indeed! Last year, I ended up with two birthday cakes and a birthday cupcake from my students.
Since one of my students educated me last year about golden birthdays, I decided I should educate my students. Your golden birthday is when your age matches the day you were born on. My birthday is November 25th, so my golden birthday will be my 25th birthday. #CannotWait
I also used this as a chance to introduce my students to the concept of Friday Letters which I am stealing from Rebecka Peterson.
I can’t help but mention the current competition going on between my sister and myself. We’re competing to see who can read the most books during 2014. I’ll let the image speak for itself. Let’s just say the score is not pretty right now. I need more time!
Students also want to know what type of person you were in high school. I went to a much bigger high school than the school I currently teach in, so we had the option of taking Academic Team (Quiz Bowl) as a class in lieu of athletics. Academic team was my thing. I wasn’t in band. I didn’t play sports. My sister and I both competed from 7th grade through our senior years of high school. My senior year, I was named to the All-State team.
I also tell students from Day 1 that I am super-involved in my church. It’s a tiny country church, so I wear a lot of different hats. Pianist. Sunday school teacher. Vacation Bible School director. Church camp sponsor. Children’s church teacher. This year, my 14th year to go to camp, I climbed up 40 feet in the air inside the “fish net.” I made them take my picture climbing so I could prove to my students that I did it!
Students usually figure this one out pretty quickly. I type unnaturally fast. When I started the 8th grade, I was probably the world’s slowest typist. But, I refused to look at my fingers when I took typing, and I slowly got faster and faster and faster until I was typing faster than anyone else in the school. I’ve slowed down a bit because I’m out of practice. But, I took a quiz the other day and typed 103 words in a minute. That’s not too shabby. My students say that it sounds like I’m shooting bullets out of my fingertips when I type. Apparently, that can be a little distracting during a quiz or test…. It is one of the most useful things I ever learned to do, though.
After riding public transportation for the first time in my life this summer in Denver, I started to think about all the things I have still yet to do. I’ve never flown. #TMC15 is going to be in LA though. And, that’s a pretty long drive. I may just have to get over my fear of flying! Though, driving would allow me to add several states to my list of states visited… I haven’t been on a cruise either. And, I’d love to travel by train. I’ve rode the train at Silver Dollar City and Dry Gulch USA, but I don’t count those. I want to ride a train that goes somewhere!
I’ve never quite understood why students want to know what kind of car I drive. First, I told them that my driving test grade was the worst test score of my life. But, I have never been pulled over or wrecked, so I can’t be that terrible of a driver. I included pictures (from Google Images) of my first car and my current car. I really hope they DON’T key my car!
I’ve never broken a bone. But, my sister has. And, apparently both times were my fault. The first time she was 3. We were both on the teeter totter. She fell off. I think she should have been holding on better. She claims it was my fault though. Debatable. The second time she was five. I convinced her that it would be cooler if we sat on the back of the couch to color in our coloring books. It’s not my fault that she doesn’t have the best balance in the world.
I like to be honest with my students that there are things I am not good at. Swimming would fall under that category. I probably won’t drown. But, you won’t find me swimming laps. I just can’t do it. Or, I should say, I haven’t put in the effort to learn how to properly breathe and swim at the same time.
Can you figure out which one I am in the picture? This is my 4th grade class on Land Run Day. I used to assume that everyone knew about the Land Run. But, apparently that’s something that people outside of Oklahoma don’t necessarily learn about.
I’m on the far right in the blue dress with the white apron. Want to know what my prize was for winning my class’ dress up contest? I was deemed a Sooner in the Land Run. I had to try to sneak past the guy with the gun and claim my land before the shot was fired to start the land run. Do you know what happens when you do that? People start chasing you, catch you, and throw you in jail. If you know me at all, you know that I am NOT a rule breaker. If I’m not supposed to go before a certain time, I don’t go before that time. While I was hanging out in jail, everybody else got to claim their land first. I think I’m still traumatized by that experience.
What sports did you play in high school Ms. Hagan?
Ha. Ha. Ha. Might was well tell you on Day Uno that I did not play any sports in high school.
I did serve a volleyball over the net this summer at church camp. This was something that I was never able to do when we played volleyball in PE. Well, to be honest, I was the girl who ran and screamed anytime the volleyball came near me. I was the girl that you did not want on your team.
We’ll conveniently ignore the 19 or so times that my serve did not go over the net, though, and focus on the one time it did!
I want to train and run a 5K. I’m not a runner. So, I figured that there was no better motivation than telling my students about my plan to run a 5K. I did end up running the first day of school, so I guess that it did help. Love my last slide. I am super excited about this school year. Disclaimer: I’m almost as excited for this year as I am for my new pencil sharpener! You might have seen the picture of it in my classroom pics for this year.
It’s super awesome, and it’s from Classroom Friendly Supplies. It gives you such a good pencil sharpening experience that I *had* to take a selfie with the first pencil I sharpened using it. That’s completely natural, right? So, there you have it. 30 awesome facts that you should probably know about yours truly. I hope you learned something!
September 2, 2014 – On Blogging
I wish I knew why blogging has been so difficult for me lately.
Today is day #245 of 2014. This marks blog post #182 of the year. 182 blog posts in 245 days. What this means is that I’ve written a new blog post approximately 75% of the days of this year. (This isn’t entirely true. I tend to blog in spurts. I will sometimes take a few hours to sit and right out 4 or 5 blog posts at once. Then, I schedule them to be posted on separate days. Life gets in the way, so I blog when I have time to do so.) However, I’ve written sporadically lately. It’s not that I don’t have something to say. Anybody who knows me knows that I have a TON to say. When I get to writing, I have a tendency to over share.
I think Twitter Math Camp was a wake-up call to me. Before TMC, I knew that a lot of people read my blog. After all, I watch my page views and referral links religiously. What I didn’t really know was that a lot of math teacher bloggers who I look up to and highly respect also read my blog. These are the people whose blogs I started reading when I was in high school and college. Everything I know about teaching math was learned from these people. When they came up and introduced themselves to me at TMC, I was floored. You know who I am? You’ve read my blog? I should be gushing to you about how I love your blog and how it has changed my life.
Lesson learned. Just because someone has never left a comment on your blog or sent you a tweet, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t reading your blog. I guess realizing just who is reading my blog has made me more hesitant to post. It really shouldn’t matter. These people read my blog before I knew they were reading it. I don’t think I’m going to run them off with my honesty.
I also recently made the decision to be more open with people I know in real life about my blogging. This has meant telling my students that I write a blog. Now, whenever I take a picture or write down something someone says, they ask, “Am I going to be on your blog?” One class wanted to know exactly what my blog was called. There was laughter and groans when I revealed the name. This has also meant telling coworkers about my blog. I don’t know if any of them have actually done a search to find it, though. I’ve told parents of students about my blog. That may be the scariest one of all! Then, I’ve faced the dilemma of whether I should mention the fact that I write a blog about teaching math to someone I’ve been set up on a blind date with. I’ve come to the conclusion that if a guy things I’m crazy for blogging about teaching math, he’s probably NOT the type of guy I want to marry. Though, if a guy did set down and read all of the 394 blog posts I’ve written, I might question his sanity. 🙂
I wonder sometimes what impression people have of me based on my little corner of the web. This blog has became something I never expected it to become. I have became a teacher I never expected to become. I take risks. I make mistakes. I love my kids like crazy. I teach them more math than they ever though possible. I make math fun. I have the chance to become not just a teacher but a teacher leader. This blog is one of my steps toward that goal.
I need to go back and remember why I blog, though. I blog for me. I blog because I process best through written reflection. I blog because I have a terrible memory. How did I teach this topic last year? Let’s go back and read the blog post about it. I blog because I desire community. My blog made me a part of the MTBoS. I blog because I have a desire to share. I blog because I believe that my sharing will lead others to share. I blog because I want my impact to expand beyond the city limits of Drumright, Oklahoma. I blog to connect.
From here on out, I will stop apologizing about what I blog about. I blog for me, not you. I will not feel guilty when I do not blog. My blogging will happen based on what I need. Dan Meyer told us to be selfish. I’m taking his advice.
September 3, 2014 – Friday Letters
Last Friday was the 3rd Friday of the 2014-2015 school year. School started on a Thursday, so I didn’t expect to get any Friday letters that first Friday. The second Friday, I reminded my students about the opportunity to write Friday letters, but I only ended up receiving one. This past week, I didn’t remind my students, but I did end up with a handful of letters to respond to.
I’m not doing bellwork this year, so I’m not giving my students any extra incentive to write me a letter. Still, some are taking advantage of the fact that my red “mailbox” is out all week on the window sill.
Here’s my latest pile of letters. None were super long, but they all made me smile.
This one especially made me smile.
I’m glad to know that my slight feistiness is approved of…
Last year, I bought these cute animal cutouts at Dollar Tree. I thought I would make some type of bulletin board out of them, but it never materialized. I’ve been using these to write my responses to students on. Cause who wouldn’t want their note written on an adorable turtle or lady bug?!?
So far, I’m LOVING Friday letters. Thanks Rebecka for the inspiration!
September 4, 2014 – Beginning of Year Concept Maps 2014-2015
This summer, I participated in OGAP for the second year. One of the requirements for our participation is to have our students create concept maps at the beginning and end of the year. I’m looking forward to seeing how this year’s group of students’ attitudes change toward math as the year progresses.
Here are some of the highlights of this year’s concept maps.
I’m not sure if this student things algebra is going to be good or bad or fun or all three!
We’ll be working on negatives this year a lot in Algebra 1!
Feeling flattered. Maybe they’ll learn to spell my name correctly by the end of the year 🙂
I told students they could write anything related to algebra including how they felt about it. Algebra apparently ruins your life. “It would be better if it was food.” Hmm… Not quite sure how to respond to that one. I’ve got my work cut out this year with convincing this student of the amazingness of algebra!
“I like math unless I get pushed to far and yelled at.” Has this happened to them before? So sad. I hope students don’t leave my class feeling this way.
It looks like I also have some tricks to nix this year. KFC should be banned!
I especially like the “something I can’t remeber the name of” bubble. 🙂
I like that this student recognizes that homework is preparation for tests. And, I agree. Algebra and math are both cool.
Math = Lots of Headaches
Lots of truth in this concept map. “Ms. Hagan don’t eat meat.” Ms. Hagan has lots of signs and quotes on the wall. Ms. Hagan has a stuffed monkey as a classroom pet.
I may have to start referring to Remind (formerly Remind101) as “Algebra Alerts.” 🙂
Problem solving. Confusion. Brain thinking. This is what I want my classroom to be like!
INBs make an appearance. Coloring and Drawing in Notebooks. “Fun with Ms. Hagan.”
Algebra is a sleeping aid. And, I am nice but strange. Thanks, student, for your honesty.
Algebra is better than geometry.
A student’s take on typical word problems:
This is a student I had for Algebra 1. Love this concept map!
“Only Ms. Hagan likes math.” I would beg to differ.
Apparently, this student really doesn’t like math.
And, this is why I have banned the (y2 – y1) / (x2 – x1) formula from my classroom. I didn’t teach the formula last year and the results were AMAZING. Students I taught the formula to two years ago still can’t remember how it goes… 🙁
Algebra “should be ILLEGAL.”
September 8, 2014 – Next5: Making Plans
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately. Planning for my future. Thinking about my present. Reflecting on my past. What do I want to accomplish in my life? What should I be doing right now?
These post-college years have not looked like what I anticipated. My plans for my future and God’s plans haven’t necessarily lined up in all aspects of my life. But, that’s okay. He’s continually showing me how His ways are better. I’ve accomplished so many things these past couple of years that would have been impossible had my own plans worked out.
In one of the facebook groups that I’m a part of, several of the participants started posting lists of goals under the hash tag #Next5. The idea is to write a list of what you wish to accomplish in the next five years of your life. Then, share it with the world. Kevin Buchanan made a video about the #Next5 Challenge.
I’ve never been one to create a five or ten year plan for my life before. But, there’s a first time for everything. Here’s what I hope to accomplish in the next five years of my life. I’m a few months away from turning 25, so I guess you could call this my list of things to do before I turn 30.
I tried to take a selfie with my list, but my selfie skills are seriously lacking. This is the best out of at least 10 or 15 takes…
Eventually, I just resorted to laying my list down and snapping a picture of it.
After four years of college, I was READY to be done. While my friends were busy taking the GRE and filling out grad school applications, I was busy filling out job applications. I wanted to be the one giving the homework instead of doing the homework. Now that I’ve been out of college for several years, I miss it. I miss the challenge. I think I’m ready now. I have a vision for what I want to do someday beyond the classroom. And, it’s going to take a fair amount of extra schooling to make it happen. More about those plans in another post, though…
National Board Certification
I have one more year of teaching to complete until I can start the process of becoming a Nationally Board Certified Teacher. I remember watching my high school teachers go through this process while I was a student, and I’m excited for the opportunities for reflection and professional development it will provide. The thought of video-taping my teaching and reflecting on it terrifies me. But, that’s a sign that it’s something I need to do. I want to become a better, more effective educator. And, I think this is an important step on my journey to do just that. The extra stipend that comes with it will be nice as well. (Let’s just hope Oklahoma keeps paying the stipend!)
Own My Own Home
I moved out of my parents’ house at age 18 when I started college. My first two years of college were spent living in a dorm room. Next, came two years of living in an apartment. When I moved to Drumright, I rented a house. This will be my third year living in the same house. I think I’m finally at the point where I need to decide where I want to settle down and buy a house. I feel like it’s silly to keep paying rent when I could be investing in something. In the town I live in, house payments are actually cheaper than rent. I have lots of decisions to make. But, I definitely want to own my own home in the near future.
Run a 5K
I’m not a runner. It doesn’t come naturally to me, but I want to prove to myself that I can do it. I want to prove to my students that I can do it. This is about me making an effort to stay healthy and fit. This is about me proving to myself that I can do anything I set my mind to. This is about me stepping out of my comfort zone. It’s time to stop making excuses and make this happen.
If I said I didn’t want to get married, I would be lying. So far, God hasn’t made this happen. Instead, he’s been using this season of singleness to work on growing me as a person. He’s teaching me how to communicate. Oh, how he’s doing quite a job of that right now. This could be a blog post in itself. I’ve also had to learn how to go after what I want and not what I think that others would want me to do. I know marriage isn’t easy. And, I know I will be better off for working on these things before entering into a relationship. Will marriage happen for me in the next 5 years? I don’t know. Of all the things on this list, it’s the one that is the least under my control. At least the type of God-honoring marriage I’m looking for is out of my control. I guess I could always find some random person on the street that would agree to marry me, but that’s definitely NOT what I’m looking for! 🙂
The disclaimer at the bottom goes for the entire list. I truly have no way of knowing what challenges and triumphs the next five years of my life will bring. God is in control. And, the Bible tells me that his ways and thoughts are greater and higher than mine. I plan on working my hardest to make these goals into reality, but I am ultimately not in control.
What’s your plan for the #Next5 years of your life?
September 14, 2014 – RedditGifts Teacher Exchange: My Box of Goodies
I learned about the RedditGifts 2014 Teacher Gift program from Kathryn (@iisanumber). After seeing some awesome gifts sent to her by a complete stranger for her classroom, I decided to sign up this year. I asked my anonymous donor to help out with supplies for our interactive notebooks. And, I’m so glad I did!
My school fully supports my using interactive notebooks, but I have to provide all of the supplies for my students. This can get a little pricey at times, but I think it’s worth it.
Here’s the box of goodies from my mystery donor. Almost 12 pounds worth of INB supplies!
Dear Mystery Donor,
Thanks for going out of your way to help make math fun for my students! I love all the supplies, and my students are going to love using them, too! Thanks for helping make our notebooks beautiful!
Want to see pics of what I got?
They sent construction paper.
And pocket folders.
Scotch tape. 🙂
Fun colored highlighters. Yay!
Erasers for fixing mistakes. Mistakes are good. We learn from mistakes. #growthmindset
And, you can never have enough glue sticks!
Colored pencils are a must for INBs.
My students have been complaining about all of our markers dying these past few weeks. They’re going to be super excited about these!
Pencils. Why can some students never remember a pencil?
And, chalk. There aren’t any chalkboards in my classroom. But, I’m pretty sure I saw an activity the other day that used chalk. Now I just have to remember what activity it was…
September 14, 2014 – September Reflections on a Life Changed
I doubt my sixth grade homeroom teacher knows this, but she changed my life. I can’t remember the occasion, but during the first month of the school year, she gave me a book. I’d forgotten about this book until this past Labor Day Weekend. I’m an avid reader, and I have the bookshelves to go along with that passion/obsession. Though my house now boasts five bookshelves, it wasn’t that way when I first moved out on my own. So, for the past few years, I have kept quite a few books on a shelf in my old bedroom at my parents’ house.
Over Labor Day Weekend, my mom decided that to do some rearranging of furniture. One of her plans involved switching the bookshelf in her bedroom with the bookshelf in my old bedroom. Easy, right? Well, after my mom and sister unloaded the 375 or so books off the shelf in my room to move the shelf, they were not exactly in the mood to re-shelve that many books. When I came over to visit, I was given an ultimatum: “Go through your books. Take the books you want to keep to your house. Put the books you want to keep here back on the shelf. Donate the rest.”
This stack of books to go through isn’t at all intimidating. There were actually more than this. These were all I could get in the picture, though.
I made three piles. Keep. Take home. Donate. Some of the books were easy to categorize. Memorable books from my childhood went back on the shelf. A few math textbooks went to my house. The hundreds of novels from classical literature that I never got around to reading during my “I’m going to be an English teacher someday” phase ended up in the donation pile. Going through the piles, I found the book that started it all, the book that was a gift from my 6th grade reading/homeroom teacher. It was Memories of Anne Frank: Reflections of a Childhood Friend by Alison Leslie Gold. In less than a second, I knew this book had to go in my keep pile.
I remember reading it, loving it, and wanting to know more about this young girl’s life. When the book fair came to the school, my first purchase was The Diary of Anne Frank. I had already read about her life and experiences through the perspective of her friend. Now, I relished the opportunity to get a glimpse into the author’s life through her own words. Reading her diary made me want to keep my own. But, I didn’t do anything about it right away.
Then, the world changed. On a September morning that same year, two towers came crashing down. Moved by the events, I picked up a pencil within a few minutes of learning about the tragedy and started writing my own diary. I was a terrified eleven year old, and my writing reflected that. I wrote in my 9/11 journal for a few weeks. I recorded what I had heard on the news, conversations with my parents, rumors of impending war, and, mostly, my fears and questions.
I think I secretly hoped that one day my journal would also be read by the world. Now that I’ve been on this planet for nearly a quarter of a century, I no longer have to dream of having my diary published for the entire world to read. I’m already living that dream through this blog.
I started writing because Anne Frank wrote. I started writing because Ms. Adams encouraged me to. I started writing because I had something to say, but I was too scared to give voice to my thoughts and ideas. The notes Ms. Adams would leave on my essays reminded me to be thankful for my experiences, and she encouraged me throughout the year to step outside of my comfort zone. If she could see the woman I am today, I’m 99.97% sure she wouldn’t recognize me. That shy girl who always did her homework but never spoke up in class is now a confident, enthusiastic, passionate high school math teacher. It took some hard work, but she got over her fear of being in the spotlight. This summer, she even presented at two different conferences for math teachers. That girl who was encouraged by her teacher to pursue her love of music now plays the piano for her church every Sunday.
I started writing in the sixth grade on 9/11, and I haven’t stopped since. In 13 years of journaling, I’ve filled 36 volumes. Volume 37 is currently in progress. A shelf in my bedroom holds these volumes. These pages tell of triumphs and low points in my life. Other pages cover the mundane. The pages have been written, read, and reread. Tears stains dot some pages; other pages include a ridiculous amount of exclamation points. When I look back at my early entries, I have to cringe. At the same time, I know I wouldn’t be the writer I am today if it wasn’t for those early attempts. If my house is on fire, these will be what I grab.
Sometimes I wonder how many more volumes there would be if I hadn’t picked up blogging. How many books would be filled by my 400 blog posts? Writing and the process of reflecting in order to write have changed me. When I think about how I decided what area of teaching to go into, I have to laugh. I discounted the idea of becoming an English teacher because I said I hated writing. Actually, I guess my exact words were, “I hate writing essays, so I’m pretty sure I would hate grading essays.” So, what did I do? I became a math teacher who writes and writes and writes. And, amazingly, people seem to want to read what I write. So, the process continues.
The list of people who have greatly influenced my life is dominated by educators. And, I have to hope that someday I will be on someone’s list.
I had several high school English teachers who took the time to teach me to write and develop my voice. To them, I will be eternally grateful. Junior year. AP English Composition. The task: write an essay about a life changing moment. It was a few weeks before the fifth anniversary of September 11th. At this point, I had no way of knowing I was still on a journey that was influenced by the events of this day and the gift of a book from a teacher. I didn’t know that the journal I started that day would soon multiply into volume after volume. I didn’t even know what a blog was in middle school.
Every September, I make it a point to go back and re-read my reflections. What I wrote in 2006 remains true today.
Not Such An Ordinary Day: A Reflection on September 11, 2001
It was just an ordinary school day, or so I thought. After we had said the Pledge of Allegiance, the principal came over the intercom. I do not remember her exact words because at that time I had
no idea what she was talking about. She basically told the teachers that they should try to make the school day as normal as possible. “Why”, I thought, “should the teachers have to try to make the school day normal?”
By third hour, I was even more confused. What was this secret that all of the teachers were keeping from us? My science teacher had a television set pushed up to her desk and muted so
only she could see it. Why was she allowed to see it if we were not? By now, I knew something was terribly wrong.
The answer came at 1:18 p.m. Ms. Jordan, my sixth grade social studies teacher, took the time to tell us all of the events that had happened that morning. She turned on the news so we could see the Twin Towers crash to the ground for ourselves. Ms. Jordan realized how great of an impact this was going to have on our lives. She took the time to listen to our worries and answer our questions. Who did this to us? Why did they do it? Are they going to do it again? There was not enough time to answer all of our questions.
I knew that this was to be an important event in my life. I wanted to have something that I would be able to look back at so I started writing. I wrote about everything that had happened and how it made me feel. Looking back at those pages, I relive the horrific events of that day. “It’s 1:18 pm
and the United States is under siege.” That sentence begins my account of September 11, 2001 and the days following. That night, I wrote, “I’m still scared. No more news. I hope it doesn’t turn into a war!” I started to question why this had happened. I wrote, “I’ve been praying a lot lately. Why did this have to happen?” Luckily, my parents were there to answer any questions I had. I can remember asking my mother, “What did we do to them to make them do this to us?” Most of my questions were answered with, “I don’t know.” It made me feel better to know that I was not alone.
Ms. Jordan told us that the day of September 11, 2001, would be one that we would remember for
the rest of our lives. It would be a day we would tell our children and grandchildren about. I tried to imagine myself as an adult who was able to immediately recall the exact day the Twin Towers came crashing down. I simply could not picture it. Reflecting back, five years later, I remember the date as if it was yesterday.
Growing up, I thought America was the best country in the world. If we were not the best country, then why did so many people want to become American citizens? I felt that war was an uncivilized thing of the past. September 11, 2001 made me realize that our country was not safe. We were hated and despised by other cultures. If they could kill thousands of innocent people, what else could they do? If they did it once, they could do it again. For the first time in my life, I feared
Even at the age of eleven, I knew that this day was a changing point for America. The events of this day are still defining my life today. Just as Dorothy realized she and Toto were no longer in Kansas, we woke up that day to realize that we were not as safe as we thought we were. We woke up that day to never sleep again. The rose colored glasses of my childhood were abruptly ripped off that afternoon, and my feeling of safety collapsed with the Twin Towers.
September 15, 2014 – Five Random Facts
The contents of this post have nothing in common. This is just me being random.
Random Fact #1: Even though I’ve lived on my own for a few years, using a hammer to hang things on the wall of my house still makes me feel independent. This weekend, I had a few things that needed to be hung up. I hung up my hexagonal pot holder on the wall in my kitchen. This could be considered art, right?
I hung up some flower pictures in my bedroom. We’re going to pretend these are perfectly straight and level. Let’s just say I never measure before hammering in the nails to hang stuff. It drives my mom crazy. Hanging these required playing musical chairs with two other pictures on the wall.
I hung a wreath over these hooks by my front door. My sister told me the placement of the wreath was “interesting.” How am I supposed to know where to hang a wreath if I’ve never owned one before???
And, an obligatory selfie to round out the experience.
Random Fact #2: I got a new laminator! The summer before I first started teaching, I heard @druinok talking about purchasing a laminator. If she buys something, I know it something I’ve got to have. So, I bought one, too. #BestPurchaseEver.
This summer, I killed my laminator. It wasn’t the laminator‘s fault. Total user error. I turned on the laminator to warm up. Then, I got side tracked. When you buy a laminator, they tell you to never use it for more than two consecutive hours. By this, they also mean, don’t accidentally leave your laminator on for 24+ hours. Oops… I guess I got really side tracked. When you leave the laminator on for that long, it starts to melt the parts inside. Yeah. Not good.
I took it out of the box today to laminate some of Cindy Johnson’s conic cards for my Algebra 2 classes. This laminator is a thing of beauty! It’s quiet, and I think it might be a bit speedier than my previous Purple Cow.
Random Fact #3:
I can’t wait to show this new brain teaser to my students. My mom picked up this toy at a thrift store recently for me to share with my students. The goal is to get the plastic ring off. It looks impossible, but it’s not. I’m curious to see if any of my students will be able to figure it out. This will make a perfect task for Brain Teaser Thursday.
Random Fact #4:
Students give you the weirdest stuff. “Ms. Hagan, I brought you a water bottle.”
Thanks? I did use the water to water my plants in my classroom that I had been neglecting…
Random Fact #5:
My pink cabinet finally has labels! 🙂 These make me happy. Now, I just need to label everything else in my classroom! Some day I will be organized…
September 22, 2014 – Starting Grad School Today
I’ve told a few people about this decision, but I guess it’s time to make this “blog official.” (That just doesn’t have the same ring to it as “facebook official…” 🙂
As I posted before, one of my goals for the #Next5 years of my life is to earn a master’s degree. This is something I’ve been thinking about since my days of undergrad, but I’d always thought of it in a “someday…” kind of way. I guess the reason for this is that I didn’t know what I wanted a master’s degree for. I think I wanted one just to have one.
But, if you don’t really have a reason for pursuing one other than to have one, it’s kinda hard to decide what type of degree to pursue. One master’s program will let you be a school counselor. Another, a principal. Yet another, an instructional specialist. There were degrees in educational technology, math education, educational psychology, education theory, special education, etc. The list keeps going on and on. There is no one degree that lets one do it all. And, I haven’t even added the option of pursuing a master’s in pure or applied mathematics to the list. Then, there’s always the option of going for a master’s in an unrelated field.
In high school, I thought I would one day take the school counselor route. After becoming friends with our school counselor, I see that the job isn’t exactly what I envisioned. I think I love the act of teaching too much to give it up. I still think it would be rewarding to help students with the college application and scholarship process, but I know there is much more to being a school counselor than that. It’s true that I do love math. But, I’m not sure if I love the idea of graduate level math. I’m kinda glad to be away from proofs and all that fun stuff. I look on those years of studying challenging math fondly, but I’m not eager to relive them.
I keep coming back to the fact that I love teaching. I love being in the classroom. School administration would take me out of the classroom, and I think I would miss it dearly. This summer, I started thinking seriously about grad school for the first time. I think this renewed interest was probably a result of the 5(!) different math teacher conferences I attended this summer. When you surround yourself with people who love math and people who have graduate degrees, it inspires you to think about your own future.
I was able to have some conversations with people this summer about my thoughts/concerns regarding grad school. Thanks to all those who listened to my ramblings/attempts to process my life goals and trajectory. I remember one late night conversation well. “Sarah, what are you waiting for? Start the process now.” Well, I finally got around to doing that.
When I started researching grad programs, I came to the conclusion that I had a few options. Pack up my life and move closer to a metropolitan area in Oklahoma so I can attend classes at night without having to drive an hour to and from class. Commute back and forth to class and go insane in the process. Put off grad school for a few more years until I can decide what to do. Or, do an online degree program.
Ideally, I would prefer to take actual physical classes, but I live in the middle of nowhere. I think I may have alluded to it in the past, but I’m going to just come right out and say it. I truly believe that God led me to accept this job in this town. Had I chosen a path to take after college, moving to a town without a stoplight where I didn’t know a single soul would not have been how I wrote my story. But, God is infinitely more wise than I can ever comprehend. My experiences these past few years have reassured me that He has a plan. I’m still not sure what that plan entails. And, I have no clue how long He means me to stay here. I have to trust that He will make it abundantly clear when it is time to move on.
Until that time, I’ve decided that I need to stop living my life on “pause” and start going after my goals. This is the rationale behind my decision to do my master’s degree online. This allows me to pursue my goal of furthering my education while staying where I believe God is using me to make a difference for His kingdom.
The program I chose is a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction with a Math Education Emphasis through the University of Texas at Arlington. One class every five weeks. One week break in between classes. Eighteen months from now, I will have a master’s degree. I’m slightly nervous about taking classes online because I’ve never taken an online class in my life before. I have enrolled in some MOOCs, but I’ve never finished one. This is NOT a good sign. I think this will be different since the classes will be part of a degree program, and there’s always the fact to consider that I’m paying for them.
Thanks to the federal government and a TEACH Grant, I will only have to cover 20% of the tuition costs in exchange for agreeing to teach 4 years after finishing my master’s in a low-income school district. I’m not planning on leaving the classroom anytime soon, so this should work perfectly for me. I will end up paying less than $2,000 for my master’s degree. Seeing as I will get a $1,200/year raise as a result of the additional degree, I think it will be worth it. Plus, I’m excited to hit the books again. I miss the challenge of college. Now that I’ve been in the classroom, I think the reading and assignments will be more meaningful to me than if I had gone straight into a master’s program after graduation.
So, if I’m not posting as much as normal, I have a new excuse. It’s called grad school. And, it starts TODAY. 🙂
September 24, 2014 – Learning Love and Logic
Today, I’m going to tell you about the time I accidentally attended a parenting seminar. If you’re
wondering why this is a big deal, well… I’m 24 with no husband, no kids, and no plans to have kids until I’m married. AKA No reason whatsoever to go to a 2 hour parenting seminar.
So, why was I there? It’s totally Shelli’s fault. She tweeted me a few weeks ago to ask what I was doing on September 18th. TU was hosting a free Love and Logic Parent-Teacher Institute with Dr. Charles Fay. I’ve never read the Love and Logic book, but I could definitely use some help with my classroom management skills. Shelli ended up not being able to go with me due to Back to School Night, so I ended up going by myself.
Dr. Charles Fay was an absolutely hilarious and riveting speaker. I don’t think we ever quite quit laughing the entire evening. He started the evening by trying to gauge what his audience was trying to get out of the evening. Raise your hand if you are the parent of an infant. Raise your hand if you are the parent of a toddler. Raise your hand if you are the parent of an elementary school child. Raise your hand if you are the parent of a middle school child. Raise your hand if your child is in high school. Raise your hand if your children have grown up and moved out of the house. Raise your hand if your children have grown up, moved out of the house, and moved back in the house. Raise your hand if you’re here tonight because your spouse acts like a child. Raise your hand if you are both raising your children and helping to take care of your own parents.
At this point, I’m starting to feel a tad bit awkward. Everybody else has been raising their hands
and looking around at each with understanding glances. Not me. I’m trying to avoid eye contact with those around me out of fear that they will ask me what I think I’m doing here.
I obviously don’t belong. EVENTUALLY, the speaker gets around to asking if anyone is there because they are an educator. A handful of hands go up, but you can tell that we’re definitely in the minority.
To be honest, 97.24% of the presentation was focused on parenting and not teaching. But, it was
definitely not a wasted evening. I walked away with lots of things to think about and apply to my classroom.
Major Takeaways: I let a select few students pull me into arguments. This reduces my effectiveness. I don’t have to explain myself and my actions to my students. Also, I need to let my kids struggle more. I need to let them experience the consequences of their lack of effort. I deserve to feel respected in my classroom. And, my students should be working
harder than me.
Here’s my notes. I bolded the statements that I feel I can definitely apply to my classroom. Now, I’m intrigued and want to know more about what the Love and Logic Program actually looks like in the classroom. Now, I just need to find some time to read again! 🙂
When dealing with children, always ask yourself, “Who is the adult in the room?”
3 Pieces of Advice
- Stop fighting with your children.
- Take the energy you have been spending fighting
with your children and pour it into building their character. Teach them patience. Teach them respect. Teach them how to wait. Teach them to say “Please” and “Thank you.”
- Love your children.
Ask yourself – what is at the heart of how our kids do in life? The grades on their transcript or
Q: What can I do to help my child in school?
A: Give them chores. No reminders. No pay. Just chores.
When your children ask for things:
“I will be more than happy to do XYZ as long as I feel respected and your chores are done.” When we focus on character instead of grades, we have guaranteed success.
Allow yourself to love your kids just as they are right now.
Allow kids to experience consequences of their lack of effort.
Want to confuse a misbehaving kid? Smile at them!
If a kid can argue with you, will they ever come to respect you? If a kid can argue with you, are you still the authority figure?
When talking to a misbehaving kid, be brain dead. Don’t think about the words coming out of the kids’ mouth.It’s good for kids to hear the word NO.The more words I use with an angry, arguing kid, the less effective I become. You do not have a solemn obligation to make sense to your kid.
ONE THING TO FOCUS ON: Don’t get pulled into arguments. The most powerful consequences come like a bolt of lightning wrapped in empathy. Resisting wind makes trees grow stronger roots.
We’ve got to love our kids enough to let them struggle. Struggle produces growth.
It’s okay if your kids think you’re a wimp! They’ll find out the truth later.
- As soon as your kids can walk, they should be doing chores alongside you.
- Do chores together with kids. Do chores together with teenagers.
- Kids should see us doing things with great enthusiasm.
- Your motto with chores should be: “I help as long as you’re working harder than me.”
- Chores are an opportunity for children to experience being helpful and being a part of something.
- If you nag and remind kids to do their chores, who is really doing the chore? You are!
- The more reminders we give our kids, the more reminders our kids will come to need.
Mistakes are the road to wisdom. If you want an exceptional child/family, don’t have a
television in your home. Empathy THEN consequences. When you don’t know what to do, it’s okay to delay the consequence.
September 27, 2014 – A Most Tardy Reflection on Twitter Math Camp, the MTBoS, and Online Dating
I’ve put off writing about my TMC experience because, honestly, it was overwhelming. And, when I say overwhelming, I mean it in the best possible way. If you want recaps of various TMC sessions, you should probably look elsewhere. This post is going to be less informative and more on the reflective side. And by reflective, I mean completely random!
I’m going to compare Twitter Math Camp and the MTBoS to online dating. I actually made this comparison at least twice during the four days of TMC. And, each time, I just got weird looks. Apparently, the majority of TMCers don’t have online dating experience. After seeing the results of Michael Pershan’s survey, this made a little more sense.
The majority of TMC participants are over 30. With the mean and median ages in the mid to upper thirties, I guess it makes sense that most would have experienced dating without the influence of the Internet.
I know that at age 24 I’m young. But, in the TMC world, I’m apparently a baby.
Honestly, I wish I didn’t have online dating experience. I fully intended on meeting a guy in college and marrying right after graduation. That did not happen. Instead, I graduated and moved to a town in the middle of nowhere. I wasn’t really thinking about the prospects of finding someone to date in a town without a Wal-Mart or even a stoplight when I accepted this job offer. But, what’s done is done. And, I have to trust that this is all part of God’s plan for my life.
After a year of living in a tiny town and zero dates during that year, I decided to venture into the online dating world. [To my sister who may or may not be reading this because she tends to skim my blog posts because she finds them “boring”, I apologize for never telling you that I tried online dating. I think the crazy stories that resulted from this experience are still funny. I’ll have to share them with you sometime!] Entering the online dating world is actually kinda similar to becoming part of the #MTBoS.Ways Online Dating and the #MTBoS are the Same
1. You have to spend hours/days/weeks coming up with the perfect, clever username. This will be the first thing people judge you on. In the case of the #MTBoS, the more math-y your username is the better. In the case of online dating, the opposite is probably true. Once you settle on a username, there’s a 97.2% chance that you’ll be told that this username is already taken. And, you have to begin the process all over again.
Side note: what does it say about me that I recently started trying to think up a cool mathematical username to use if I ever decide to try online dating again? I mean, we all know that I already have the best mathematical username in the world with mathequalslove. But, I’d kinda prefer to tell a guy in person that I spend a ridiculous amount of my life blogging about teaching math instead of letting him discover it before he ever meets me. He needs to see the normal side of me before he sees the “I love teaching math with all my being” side of me. Oh wait. That is the normal side of me. I can discuss things other than teaching math, though. 🙂 So, I’ll need a new username. Current contenders: lessthanthree, lovejesusandmath, ratioofcircumferencetodiameter, or myfavnumberispi. Of course, now I can’t use any of these because they’ll all lead back to this blog post. Bummer…
2. You get to decide what people see/know about you. With online dating, this means carefully selecting photos for your profile that only capture you at the perfect angle or on your best side. When writing your profile description, you can conveniently leave out the fact that you live in your parents’ basement and haven’t seen sunlight in seven years. Or, as we all know, you can claim to be a French model.
There was a lot of talk at TMC about feeling inadequate. And, it was mentioned that if you start comparing yourself and your teaching to what you read about on the blogs of others, you will feel inadequate. The activities and lessons that most people write about on their blogs are the rare perfect days or nearly perfect days in their classrooms. Most people don’t write about the lessons that bombed. They don’t write about the day they gave their students boring notes or a mind-numbing worksheet. Blogs tend to be highlight reels. And, if you start to compare the ups and downs that are a reality of being a classroom teacher with a highlight reel of only the best lessons of another teacher, you will fall short in comparison.
If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know that I tend to blog about everything under the sun. The lessons that went well. The lessons that didn’t go so well. If I only shared super-polished lessons, this blog wouldn’t exist. Some in the blogosphere have made comments about how they aren’t sure how I became a “superstar blogger” in such a short amount of time. First, I don’t view myself as a superstar. I’m just a normal, everyday teacher who has a tendency to over-share with the world. And, for some crazy reason, people read it. Case in point: you are currently reading a blog post about my online dating experiences. Someday I might regret putting all this out there on the Internet for the entire world to read… I strive for honesty in my blogging. I want my blog to be an accurate reflection of my teaching career–the good and the bad. Others strive to showcase lessons that went well. And, still others downplay their achievements through their blogs. They claim that they have nothing worthy of sharing when they clearly do.
3. Other people will judge you for your participation. Have you ever tried to describe the #MTBoS to someone who just didn’t get it? Yeah, I’ve seen others raise their eyebrows in response to my gushing about how excited I was for Twitter Math Camp. I have to remind myself that this is okay. Not everyone needs the #MTBoS like I do. Not everyone teaches in a math department of 2 where they feel isolated and starved for collaboration. Then, there are the looks you get when you admit to trying online dating. As my students so nicely put it, online dating qualifies you as “desperate.” There are those who get it. Those who have tried it out themselves or who know of someone else who has had a positive experience. And, there are those who will never get it. My parents might fall in that second category. I’m pretty sure they have watched too many Dateline specials on television about the dangers that lurk online.
Though, one of my Algebra 2 classes last year was all for me doing online dating. A few students got together one day after we did Dan Meyer’s Graphing Stories and wrote out an online dating profile for me. “I like taking long walks along the beach and graphing them. I love reciting the quadratic formula. And, I enjoy reading math books by a roaring fire.” If that won’t catch me the perfect man, I’m not sure what will! 😉
4. Statistics matter and don’t matter at the same time. There’s nothing more frustrating than seeing that 50 people have viewed your online dating profile but haven’t sent you a message. But, I speak from experience when I say quality > quantity. The messages that you do receive can cause you to begin doubting the effectiveness of elementary school literacy instruction. I tried to be very specific in my dating profile about what characteristics I was looking for in a potential relationship. If a guy was to read my entire profile, he would not need to send a “how do you feel about friends with benefits?” message.
It was difficult, but I restrained myself from sending back messages like this:
Dear Random Guy,
I really appreciated the long, semi-creepy message you sent me saying that you felt that we were soul mates based on the remarkable number of similarities we share. It is cool that we are both vegetarians. I’m a math teacher. You are going to school to be a history teacher. I fail to see, however, how these two facts make us destined to spend the rest of our lives together. Additionally, the fact that you spend 2-3 hours meditating each day is nice to know, but it does not negate the fact that we do not share the same faith.
Not your soul mate,
With blogging and tweeting, it’s easy to get caught up in how many retweets you get or how many pageviews your blog receives. Building a community inside the #MTBoS takes time. I would much rather have a few readers who take the time to leave thoughtful comments instead of a bunch of readers who read but never comment. I follow a bunch of people on twitter, but if you looked at my tweets you would see that I tend to communicate with the same small group. These tweeps get me. They’re always there for me. And, it was them that I was most excited about meeting at TMC.
5. Things can get awkward when you meet in person, but awesome, life-changing things can still result.
Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone in person who you’ve only ever communicated with through the written word before? Yeah, that’s awkward. I attribute the awkwardness to the fact that you feel like you already know the person and know nothing about the person at the same time. I tend to be a wordy person, so the amount of information that a guy could know about me by the time we finally meet in person is substantial. Maybe this is why all the relationship articles suggest taking your relationship to the in-person level ASAP.
I feel like going out on a date with someone you’ve been talking to online is like trying to jump to the conversations you would normally occur on dates 4, 5, or 6 with all the added necessary awkwardness of dates 1, 2, and 3.
I think that the nature of the MTBoS compounds the potential for awkwardness at an event like TMC. In the MTBoS, I’m not just communicating my ideas with a handful of teachers. No, there are thousands upon thousands of people reading what I write. But, I really have no way of knowing who reads what. Sure, I know when people leave comments that they have read a certain post. I read a lots of blog posts without leaving comments, and I know most people do the same. When I meet somebody, will they know that I read their blog? Will they assume that I read their blog? Should they?
At TMC, I would find myself sharing something with someone that I knew had previously been shared on my blog. Do I assume this person has read the post? Do I assume he/she hasn’t read it? Do I ask? I certainly didn’t want to waste precious time sharing something they’ve already read about. I had to laugh when one of my tweeps told me at TMC14 that they weren’t quite sure what to talk to me about the first time we met. After all, she felt like she already knew everything there was to know about me thanks to reading my blog. Oops. There’s that over-sharing again.
Honestly, I think my introverted personality made things most awkward for me at TMC. As much as I wanted to meet all of my tweeps, I just couldn’t make myself go up and introduce myself to these people. I am not an anti-social person at all. I love to talk to people. I love to hang out. I just struggle with being the person to initiate the conversation. This is something I’m currently working on in my life, but it’s definitely a process. (And, God has certainly been giving me plenty of opportunities to initiate awkward conversations of late!)
So, I was the girl standing in the hotel lobby 3 feet away from Dan Meyer who couldn’t bring herself to say, “Hey Dan, I’m Sarah. I started reading your blog when I was a junior in high school. And, you’re one of the main reasons I blog and tweet today. Thank you!”
Picture proof that I met Dan Meyer: 🙂
Thankfully, Dan doesn’t have the same issues with starting conversations with random people whose blogs he reads as I do. And, we ended up having a nice conversation after he introduced himself to me. “You’re Sarah Hagan, right?” “That’s me.” “Hi, I’m Dan.” If there was anybody at #TMC14 who shouldn’t have had to introduce himself, it was Dan. #Danweallloveyouandknowwhoyouare Now why would I think that was such a hard thing to do? We ended up talking about what makes for a good blog post, the crazy things that can happen as a result of blogging, and the major influence that blogging has had on my life as a new teacher. Then, the next day, Dan referenced our conversation during his keynote address. Ummmmmmmmmmm there are 150-170 math teacher bloggers in the room and you decide to talk about me?!? That’s cool. Well, actually it’s more than cool. However, I found that when I tried to explain how cool it was to others not in the #MTBoS, they just didn’t understand.
And, this was just one awesome conversation of many that happened during the 4 days of TMC. I got to meet so many people whose blogs I’ve been reading since high school and college. Plus, I was able to connect with a lot of my interactive notebook friends and share awesome ideas. And, I met new people and found new blogs to read, too.
So, am I thankful that I went to Twitter Math Camp 2014? Yes, yes. A million times yes! It was the most exciting, exhilarating, useful professional development I’ve ever experienced. I’ve got more to write/share/reflect on, but this is a start. TMC was in July. It’s almost October . I’m just a few months behind… 🙂
September 27, 2014 – Singing and Writing Math Songs
My Algebra 1 students are currently working on graphing linear equations. There are a ton of great math songs/videos out there about this topic, and I’ve been showing to them to my students. We’ve watched Graph Shop, Graph!, Rise Up Run Out, Slope Rida, and The Adventures of Slope Dude so far this year. I also showed Gettin’ Triggy Wit’ It to my trig class. My Algebra 2 students are soon going to feel left out because we haven’t watched a video all year…
One of my usually very quiet eighth graders raised her hand this past week and asked, “Why don’t you make awesome math videos for us?” Well…………….ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmm………..you see… it turns out I’m not the most creative person. I tend to leave this job to the professionals. And by “professionals,” I clearly am referring to math teachers who are much cooler than me. I know the fact that there are cooler math teachers than me in this world is hard to wrap your mind around, but please try.
My trig students have just started working with radians. I wanted them to get a grasp of just what a radian is. I know that when I took trigonometry in high school, I knew how to do a lot of trig, but I didn’t quite know the “why” behind a lot of what we did. I was the type of student who didn’t ask questions. If a teacher gave a rule or showed a procedure, I followed it. Since I’ve started teaching, I’ve become a lot more curious about mathematics. What is a radian? Why does that shortcut work? What is that little number perched by the radical sign called? Why are they called conic sections? I’m continually learning, and this is one of the reasons why I LOVE my job.
When I started researching just what a radian was, I found a great discovery activity that I’ll blog about soon. In one of the lessons I found, there was a song to help students remember the circumference of a circle. The students at my school have a tough time memorizing formulas. I’m not sure if that is a universal trait or if our students are just especially bad at it. When I asked my students if they knew what the circumference of a circle was, they almost unanimously agreed that it was pi * r squared. Eek… I guess I should be happy that they at least know a circle formula…
So, class, would you like to learn a song that will keep you from forgetting the formula for circumference of a circle? Yes.
Are you ready for this?
They insisted on writing the lyrics in their interactive notebooks. Out of all my classes, my trig class loves our interactive notebooks the most. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Circumference equals 2 pi r.
Of course, some of my students missed the lyrics the first time, so I had to perform an encore. 99% of the people reading this blog have never heard me sing. That’s probably a good thing. None of my students have ever asked me to stop singing because it was a painful experience. And, they’re usually more than willing to be honest with me. Ha ha ha. That’s the understatement of the century! I still wouldn’t classify myself as a good singer, though.
So, bless the child who referred to me as the “Song Bird of My Generation” after hearing my rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.
Maybe there is hope for me…
Of course, there was that one time I wrote my own math song. It wasn’t that great, so I never did get around to blogging about it. But, if I want this blog to be a honest reflection of my teaching, I guess I should be transparent when it comes to my #songwritingskillz.
It was last spring. Algebra 2. Unit on Quadratics. I was trying to find a way to get my kids to memorize the quadratic formula. In high school, I learned the formula to the tune of Pop Goes The Weasel. So, of course I had to sing this version with my students. My teacher friend Emily pointed me towards this version set to Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep.” I also showed this One Direction version of the Quadratic Formula. So, I’ve now given my kiddos 3 different ways to memorize the quadratic formula. And, are they happy?
No. One student asks, “Why can’t there be a Johnny Cash version of the quadratic formula?”
I’m pretty sure I just laughed and moved on. But, I went home that night and started thinking. Could I write my own math song? After all, I ask my students to step out of their comfort zones every single day in my classroom. It’s only right that I do the same. Seriously, what’s the worst thing that could happen?
Step 1. Find a famous Johnny Cash song to modify. Ring of Fire? Nope. Folsom Prison Blues? Hmmm… I Walk the Line? Uhhh…yes! Because “I Walk the Line” could easily become “I Walk the Curve.” #seewhatididthere #itoldyouihavesongwritingskillz
Step 2. Copy and paste the original lyrics to a word document.
Step 3. Count the syllables in each line of the song.
Step 4. Mathatize it.
If you’ve made it all the way to the bottom of this post expecting a video of my singing the song, you’re going to be disappointed. This song never really made it past the lyrics stage. When you scroll down to my lyrics, you’ll probably understand why. 🙂 I WALK THE CURVE BY SARAH HAGAN
OH QUADRATIC FORMULA, YOU ARE MINE
YOU HELP ME SOLVE QUADRATICS ALL THE TIME
I JUST PLUG IN NUMBERS AND SIMPLIFY
TO FIND THE ROOTS, I WALK THE CURVE
GET ALL MY TERMS ON ONE SIDE OF THE EQUAL SIGN
FIND A B C AND MAKE SURE I WATCH MY SIGNS
FROM THE DISCRIMINANT I’LL LEARN A LOT
TO FIND THE ROOTS, I WALK THE CURVE
OH X EQUALS THE OPPOSITE OF B
PLUS OR MINUS THE SQUARE ROOT
OF B SQUARED MINUS FOUR TIMES A AND C
IT’S ALL OVER TWO-OOH A!
I PUT EVERYTHING IN MY FORMULA
NEXT I’LL SIMPLIFY AND REDUCE IT ALL
COMPLEX SOLUTIONS WON’T MAKE ME PANIC
TO FIND THE ROOTS, I WALK THE CURVE
OH QUADRATIC FORMULA, YOU ARE MINE
YOU HELP ME SOLVE QUADRATICS ALL THE TIME
I JUST PLUG IN NUMBERS AND SIMPLIFY
TO FIND THE ROOTS, I WALK THE CURVE
So, there you have it. The beginning and ending of my mathematical song writing career.
October 6, 2014 – Show and Tell
I miss the days of show and tell at school. I honestly can’t remember ever bringing anything for show and tell, though. Surely I did. Maybe I don’t remember because I always brought boring stuff for show and tell. Others would bring their pets. I remember when one of my 2nd grade classmates brought her hermit crab to school. Who can compete with that?!? Anyhow, today I’m going to SHOW you some pictures that I took recently and TELL you about them. Earth-shattering, right? 🙂
Soon, you may be wondering, “Why is Sarah showing me all these random pictures and telling me about them?” Well, this post is my attempt at procrastinating on my homework for my grad school class. You’re welcome.
The other day, a student stopped by my room after school to say hi/hangout until her mom arrived to pick her up. She was in my Algebra 2 class last year. When she asked me about my day, I said it was good. She replied that “It’s always a good day if you can do a math problem!” When I told her that I needed a poster that said this, she made me one. 🙂
She was also impressed by my Desmos t-shirt. When I turned around to show her the back, she decided we should graph the equation to see if it really made a heart. Not realizing the irony of her actions, she picked up a TI graphing calculator and started typing in the equation. It didn’t work. I suggested that we graph the equation on Desmos instead. It worked!
In other news, one of my trig students thought she would be cute and put “Jesus is the answer” on their special right triangles quiz. It took me a few days to come up with a proper response.
Another good thing that happened? I got 2 new free math posters in the mail! I’m super excited to look into these curve stitching resources from AMS!
I learned what the word “bae” means.
Some of my students judged me for drinking out of a juice box. #sorrynotsorry
The student who made the ring decided the ring needed a box. Isn’t her box lovely?
Another one of my students decided this is the tattoo I should get. I’m not getting any tattoo EVER but especially not this one.
Want to get lots of questions? Raid your kitchen of every circular lid you can find and place them on a desk at the front of the classroom.
Days when your odometer reading is a palindrome are the best.
My students have finally realized that I own quite a bit of mathematical jewelry. When I don’t wear something mathematical, I get questioned about it. My sister got me this new necklace with three right angles on it. Love it!
She also got me this circle necklace. 🙂
After talking about it for three years, my student council students finally got themselves organized and got t-shirts made up. I took 18 students to our district student council meeting two weeks ago. We looked very sharp wearing our matching t-shirts!
When your students beg to get out the red, yellow, and green cups, this sometimes happens.
My new Einstein poster came in the mail. Yay. It won’t stay attached to the wall. Boo.
Okay, I guess this is enough procrastination for now. Back to finishing my homework assignment… 🙂
October 12, 2014 – October
If you asked me what my favorite month of the year was, I probably wouldn’t say October off the top of my head. But, as I sit here to write this post, I can’t help but think about how excited I am about this month. October – the month where the weather finally starts to cool down so I can wear my cute fall boots, sweaters, and scarves without melting. October – the time of year where I can live for a few weeks without turning the air conditioner or the heater on in my house. October – the month of Halloween decorating and consuming WAY too much candy. And by candy, I obviously mean chocolate. 🙂 October – time for visiting pumpkin patches and exploring corn and hay mazes. It’s also the month of Fall Break and Homecoming. Plus, in Drumright, October means the Oilpatch Jamboree.
This summer, I picked up a couple of Halloween decorations at a yard sale. I’ve never decorated my classroom for Halloween before, but there’s no reason I can’t start now.
Haunted House tape around the door. My coworker asked me what was up with the caution tape. Is your classroom a crime scene? Ummmm….it very clearly says “Haunted House.”
Pumpkin lights on my desk.
Were my kiddos impressed with all the hard work I put into decorating? (Because, you know, it’s so hard to plug in a string of lights and ask your student aide to wrap tape around the door…) No. When they saw the decorations, they wanted to know where the spiders, spider webs, and bats were. #Sigh
Another student noted that my haunted house was missing a witch. Then, they corrected themselves and said that they had forgotten that there already was a witch in the room…
The Oilpatch Jamboree festival was earlier this month. I worked the Friends of the Library table where we sold cotton candy and bookmarks that were decorated by the 3rd and 4th graders at our elementary school. The Oilpatch Jamboree is a celebration of all things Oilpatch. We boast that we have the “most unique parade in the oilpatch.” I’m not sure if that’s verifiable, but I can say that it’s the only parade I’ve ever seen that features oil field equipment as parade entries. After a 5k run, the parade, and pageant, the town flocks to a park full of vendors for food, fun, and music.
Here are the bookmarks we sold. The kids did a fantastic job of decorating them!
Somehow, I became the person in charge of making the cotton candy. Have I ever made cotton candy before in my life? That’s a definite no. I’ve eaten cotton candy, but I’m not sure that counts.
Luckily, our elementary school principal showed us how to make a batch before leaving my landlady and me on our own.
I did buy myself a new fall decoration while at Oilpatch. A chevron, burlap pumpkin. When I went to hang it up in my classroom, I could only find one place that it would fit. This is actually the place on my classroom wall where I’m going to hang my college diploma when I finally get around to framing it. (I did buy a frame for my diploma at the end of this summer. I’m making progress. It may be slow progress, but it is progress.)
After hanging my pumpkin, I stepped back to admire my work. That’s when I realized that I had just transformed my pumpkin wall hanging into “pumpkin pi.” I think it’s fitting. I shared my excitement over this accidental mathematical statement with my students. Most of them rolled their eyes at me. Oh well. It makes me smile…
Other notable things from Oilpatch:
There was a Big Foot sighting. There were also little kids screaming and crying their heads off for fear of Big Foot.
And, I got what every vegetarian needs: this notepad.
All in all, it was a great first Oilpatch experience for me. The past two years, I’ve skipped Oilpatch because I felt like everybody in this town knows everybody and I know nobody. It’s taken some time, but I’ve finally started making friends and connections in this town.
October 20, 2014 – Fall Break
Fall Break is over.
It’s kinda sad. No, it’s really sad.
I started Fall Break with grand plans. I was going to tackle my to do list. I was going to catch up in life. Oh, life happened. That’s for sure. But, I’m not sure I feel any more ahead than I did five days ago.
I marked a few things off of my to do list. I read a book on approaching life with bravery and courage. And, I did some things that I wouldn’t have had the courage to do a year ago or six months ago or even two months ago.
Tomorrow, my alarm will go off super early. And as much as I’d rather sleep in and continue this break, I will go into school. And, I will put a smile on my face. That smile might be a little forced at first, but it will soon be replaced with a genuine grin that I can’t help. I will continue teaching my 101 students that they CAN do math. I will remind them that their future is not defined by their past but by the amount of hard work they are willing to put in. I will challenge them. I will push them. I will make a fool of myself trying to convince them that math is awesome. We will laugh. We will joke. We will learn algebra and trig.
And, when they complain and say things like “Ms. Hagan, you make my brain hurt,” I will just smile and say, “You’re welcome.”
I. love. this. job.
November 5, 2014 – Spirit Week 2014
This post could be alternately titled: I Am Pi Girl. This isn’t the most math-y post, but if you stick with reading it, you will get to see a picture of me in my mathematical superhero costume. 🙂
Technically, I get paid by my school district to do two things. Teach math. And, oversee the student council. Math is definitely my forte. Student council is not. I was not the type of student in high school who would have joined student council. And, I would have never volunteered for this position. But, when they hired me, they needed someone for the job. And, first-year teacher me did not know how to say “no.” Let’s be honest. Third-year teacher me still doesn’t know how to say no, either.
My big responsibility with student council is homecoming. We design and sell homecoming t-shirts as a fundraiser. That’s always a big stress on me. So glad that’s over with!
Homecoming ended up being reschedule this year. I’m not even going to try to explain how that happened.
But, last week was Spirit Week. Take Two. (Our first spirit week was only two days long due to Fall Break. We celebrated ‘Merica Monday and Twinsie Tuesday).
My StuCo kids decided to go with a Disney theme this year.
Monday was Sleeping Beauty Day. Much to the dismay of my students, I did NOT wear my pajamas. Even when I was a student in school, I never participated in pajama day. There’s just something about wearing your pjs to school that doesn’t set well with me. I told my students that I have standards for myself that involve me not wearing my pjs to school. 🙂
Tuesday was Monsters University Day. I did participate in this one by representing my alma mater, The University of Tulsa. Over the course of the day, I was shocked by how many kids didn’t know where I went to college. I told them on the first day of school. And, I have multiple TU flags hanging in my classroom. I guess I should really get around to hanging up my college diploma… Some of my students didn’t even know that the college I went to existed. According to Google maps, it’s only 44 miles away from where I teach now. And, we don’t have THAT many colleges in Oklahoma. I guess this is a sign that I should talk about college more with my students…
Wednesday was Ohana Day. Apparently, I need to brush up on my Lilo and Stitch knowledge. Because, I didn’t know what the word “Ohana” meant. But, as I heard a hundred times this week, “Ohana means family. Family means no one gets left behind.” In the past, Hawaiian Day was one of the few spirit days I’ve participated in. It’s pretty easy to throw on a Hawaiian print blouse and a lei. But, this year, my mom suggested that I borrow her Hawaiian muumuu. Yeah… I tried the dress on, and it was…well…not exactly what I normally wear to school. It doesn’t make sense why I would be so worried about what other people would think of me if I wore this. Adding a belt to the outfit made it more flattering. And, I got up the courage to leave the house in it. What I didn’t think about was the weather. The previous day had been pretty warm. But, a cold front had blown in the night before. I have a really bad habit of making wardrobe decisions based on the previous day’s weather, and this was no exception. The walk from my car to the school in 37 degree weather was QUITE chilly. (And, for the record, that’s 37 degrees Fahrenheit. For my Celsius-minded readers, that’s 2.777 degrees Celsius.) All day long, my students told me I was insane for wearing a dress in this weather. At least no one was doubting my school spirit.
Thursday was Incredibles Day. We were supposed to dress like our favorite superheros. This is the day I was most excited for. As soon as my student council kids planned this day, I started planning my costume. I was going to be a superhero. A mathematical superhero. I mean, what type of superhero could be cooler??? 😉
A few years ago, my church did a castle themed Vacation Bible School. Since I was emceeing our daily meetings, I dressed up with a cloak and sparkly pink crown. For the entire week, the kids called me “Queen Sarah.” Some of them would even bow down to me whenever they saw me. That wasn’t exactly what I’d intended…
I texted my mom to see if she knew where my cloak was. Because, a cloak is awfully similar to a superhero cape… My original plan was to attach a giant pi symbol to the back of my cape… But, my sister vetoed this idea. Eventually, I settled on making a pi shirt to wear under my cape. The pi symbol was printed out and then cut out of purple felt.
Yes, I came to school dressed as Pi Girl.
My first hour spent quite a bit of time making fun of my cape. They decided they could do just as good by tying their jackets around their necks. I thought this made them look like they should be wandering around a country club myself, but…
I really think they were just super jealous of my costume. I mean, let’s be honest. How many people can pull this off? PLEASE do not answer that question. 🙂
Friday was our only non-Disney themed day: Spirit Day.
My student council kids even created our own hash tag for Instagram. What can I say? Our homecoming was #legit.
I’m so proud of how hard my student council kids worked to pull this week off. The amount of thought and effort they put into their own spirit week costumes was inspiring. I can’t wait to see what we come up with for Basketball Homecoming!
November 26, 2014 – A Perfect Square Birthday
Hi guys! So, I realize my blog has been a lot quieter this school year than in the past. There are several reasons for that. Teaching. Grad School. Life. If you’re really nosy, there’s a clue hidden somewhere in this blog post. 😉
The big news for the week is that I celebrated my 25th birthday yesterday in grand style. Yes, I’m super happy about having my age be a perfect square. It’s going to be quite some time before this happens again! It’s the math teacher in me that’s super excited. Sorry, I just can’t help it. 🙂 Last year was my first year to actually teach on my birthday, and I blogged about it. So, I decided I simply had to continue the tradition this year.
I may also have been building up the fact that this is my golden birthday year since the first day of school. We’ve only been counting down for my birthday since August… (And, if you’re like I was a year ago, you might not know what a golden birthday is. It’s when your age and the day of the month you were born on match.)
If you’ve read last year’s birthday post, two of my students baked me a cake and gave me a birthday girl ribbon. This year, they topped that. First, they gave me a birthday girl sash. And, yes, I wore this around ALL DAY long. I did get some funny looks from other teachers in the hall… I think they were just jealous of my stylish sash. 😉
This sash was accompanied by what may be the best, most math-y birthday cake. Ever.
Okay. I have a feeling that I’m going to have to explain this cake for it to make any sense at all. One of the big things I teach my Algebra 2 students to do is to simplify radical expressions. In building up to this, I re-teach my students to find the prime factorization of numbers. Factor trees are a bit too messy and disorganized for me. I feel like it’s easy for students to miss some of the factors when they right their answers from the tree. So, I prefer to teach my students the “Birthday Cake Method of Prime Factorization”. The number you are trying to fine the prime factorization of goes on the bottom layer of your cake. On the outside of the bottom layer, write a prime number that divides into the bottom layer. Perform the division and write the quotient as the next layer. Continue writing prime numbers that divide into each layer on the outside until a 1 appears on top of the cake. We call this the “birthday candle.” And, I make a HUGE deal of drawing a flame on my one every single time. Last year, I actually had my Algebra 2 students find the prime factorization of my age. But, let’s be honest, 24 has a much more exciting prime factorization than 25. So, my students took this birthday cake method and made me a literal birthday cake out of it. How cool and creative is that?!?
My boyfriend surprised me with this gorgeous vase of colorful roses. So sweet and thoughtful. The flowers were admired all day long by me and everybody that saw them. As I write this blog post, they’re sitting on my coffee table. And, I find myself legitimately distracted from time to time by their beauty.
And, this was just the start of celebrating. Let’s just say that I consumed waaaaaaayyyy too much sugar yesterday.
There were birthday brownies to be had.
And, chocolate birthday pie.
I can’t forget the birthday cookies either. They came with a pretty sweet mathematical card, too.
I think we should totally start using infinity symbols instead of dashes when we write. Anybody else in? There was a birthday cupcake.
A birthday mug.
Google even got in the birthday spirit and showed me a special birthday search screen. At first, I thought it was a coincidence. But, hovering over the image made it say “Happy Birthday Sarah.” Kinda creepy. Kinda cool. Google knows a lot about its users, I guess. I shouldn’t be surprised when it uses some of that information.
Then, there were the birthday messages on the dry erase board. These two are supposed to be me. My main takeaway? I have an awesome sense of fashion.
One class changed their twitter status to wish me a happy birthday.
This next birthday message was slightly more interesting.
Can you read what it says under the smudge? “I don’t think you’re preggy btw.” How nice. I appreciate that. Of course, this is from the same student who interrupted class last week to ask, “Can I ask you a personal question? I don’t want you to get mad at me when I ask. I don’t want you to think that I’m saying you look fat.” If my students are anything, they are definitely honest. They say whatever comes into their minds. (And, for the record, I am not pregnant.) Don’t I just make teaching teenagers seem like the best job in the world?!? Here are a couple of birthday cards that made me smile.
Of course, I guessed “Happy Birthday.” I had a feeling it was too easy of a puzzle. I was wrong. And, I ended up hanging the poor stick guy. No words. No words.
Math made an appearance in this card which made me super happy.
P.S. Don’t forget the pi. How cute is that?!?
And, I feel like I’ve only just started to mention all the awesome things that people did to make my 25th birthday my best birthday yet. Phone calls. Text messages. Facebook messages. Tweets. E-mails. Birthday cards. Hearing a student yell “Happy Birthday” across the parking lot before I can even take a few steps from my car.
God has blessed me so much. So so so much.
January 20, 2015 – 2014: Year In Review
I’d say that it’s hard to believe that it’s already 2015, but I accidentally named my first Smart Notebook file of the semester 01062016. I guess I’m already wishing that it was 2016…
Since I started blogging, I’ve recapped the previous year each January in a blog post. If you remember past years’ reviews, I usually write out at least a paragraph for each month. This year, I’m taking a slightly different approach – one non-comprehensive list. After all, lists make me happy. And, this year has been so busy and eventful that I can’t quite keep straight what happened when.
So, in no particular order, here’s my 2014 in list form:
* Through the MTBoS, I met and started dating an amazing, inspiring guy. He’s a maths teacher blogger from Australia, and we have a ridiculous number of things in common with each other. His summer holiday and my Christmas break overlap, so 2014 was able to end with the beginning of his first visit to the United States. 🙂
* Applied to and started grad school. I’m currently 1/6 done with my master’s program in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in math studies.
* NPR interviewed me/shadowed me for a day the week after Thanksgiving. The story hasn’t aired yet, but I’ll be sure to let everyone know when it does.
* Finished my second year of teaching and started my third year.
* Set out to read as many books as possible. I ended up reading 71 books. All but 5 of those books were read during the first 6 months of the year. The decrease in books read can be attributed to the first and second items on this list.
* Attended my first edcamp.
* Taught trigonometry for the first time. SO much fun.
* Decided to switch to standards based grading in all of my classes. I should probably write a blog post about that..
* Became extremely addicted to 2048.
* Directed my church’s Vacation Bible School program for the 3rd summer in a row.
* Presented at Global Math Department for the first time. I spoke about teaching math with motion.
* Became involved with my local friends of the library organization.
* Presented for the first time at the Oklahoma Council of Teachers of Mathematics Summer Conference.
* Applied for my passport.
* Visited Colorado and New Mexico for the first time.
* Taught class dressed as Pi Girl for Super Hero Spirit Day.
* Had my first Twitter Math Camp Experience. I even worked up the courage to present!!! I met so many amazing, inspiring tweeps in person for the first time.
* Bought a guitar. I still don’t know how to play it. But, I figure that I can’t learn if I don’t own one.
* Attended my first theatre performance – Wicked.
* Fell in love with a certain pencil sharpener.
* Wrote 214 blog posts and surpassed 2 million pageviews on my blog.
* Celebrated my 25th birthday. I’m more than a little excited about being a perfect square.
I’m sure there are a ton of things that I haven’t even thought to list. It ended up being a pretty awesome year. I’ve got this feeling, though, that 2015 is going to turn out to be even more amazing. I can’t wait to see what the rest of this new year has got in store.
February 12, 2015 – Basketball Homecoming – Spirit Week 2015
Well, my student council kids have been busy these past few weeks getting stuff prepped for spirit week. Since I’m forgetful and often have to look things up on my own blog to remember how I’ve done things in the past, I thought I might as well share our spirit week on my blog.
This theme is totally unoriginal. I’m pretty sure one of my StuCo kids found this on pinterest. We modified a few things to make it fit our school.
My students did an awesome job of making posters to hang in the hall to announce each spirit day’s dress up theme. The posters have been a new tradition we’ve started this year. The kids come in one afternoon after school for 3 or so hours. I think it really makes them more invested in the spirit week activities.
Our theme for the week was “There’s no place like HOMEcoming.” Each day focused on an aspect of the Wizard of Oz.
Monday – Oz the Great and Powerful: Wear your best and brightest green and bling
Tuesday – Twister Tuesday: Dress Wacky (Mismatch Day)
Wednesday – Somewhere Over the Rainbow (Class Color Day) I was a bit bothered by the fact that not all of these colors are in the rainbow…
Thursday – Lions, Tigers, and Bears. Oh my! (Animal Print Day)
Friday – There’s a Storm Coming! (Spirit Day) This especially fits my school because our mascot is the tornado!
March 28, 2015 – Helping Students SOAR
I just finished my fourth of twelve classes for my master’s in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in math education. That means I’m officially 25% done with grad school! And, yes, I am counting. 🙂
My last class was focused on teaching problem solving, and I have to say it was the most interesting and useful class I have taken so far. Today, I want to post one of the homework assignments I did for this class. Our assignment was to make a poster describing a heuristic problem-solving model that our students could use. We could either make our own or use the one our school currently uses. My school has not adopted a problem-solving model, and I wasn’t feeling super creative. So, I decided to do some pinterest searching for ideas. I came across the SOAR model from an elementary teacher’s classroom.
The model was found on The Classroom Tourist Blog, and the linked post features the work of Kimberly Fournier at Land O’Lakes Public School. I loved the SOAR strategy framework, but I knew it would need some modifications to work in my high school classroom.
And, if you’ve been around my blog much at all, you know I kinda like making posters. So, when I got to get out my colored paper and markers, I knew this was going to be my favorite assignment yet.
Here’s me and my completed poster.
SOAR stands for SHOW, ORGANIZE, ACT, and REFLECT.
More specifically, you should SHOW what you know from the problem. In my classroom, I would like to see students make a list of knowns and unknowns, rewrite the problem in their own words, or mark up the problem by circling or underlining important information and crossing out unnecessary information.
Next, students should ORGANIZE their thinking. This is where I want students to start thinking about how they are going to go about solving this problem.
The suggestions for how to do this were taken from the problem solving strategy posters I have hanging on the wall in my classroom.
A stands for ACT. Students should ACT by using their strategy (or strategies!) to solve the problem.
I wanted to remind students that it’s okay at this step to admit that the problem solving strategy they chose didn’t work as they expected and choose a different strategy. I think that a lot of times, students feel like they have to pick one strategy and stick with it. But, they don’t know what strategy to pick, so they end up not picking any strategy and giving up. A lot of this has to do wit growth mindset vs. fixed mindset.
I want my students to show all of their work. This is something I’m going to be a much bigger stickler about next year. I saw a post earlier this year in the MTBOS where someone put “CONVINCE ME” in large letters on the wall of their classroom. I’m going to make this my motto next year. I don’t want students to show all of their work because it’s tradition. I want students to get used to doing all that they can to convince me of their understanding of a concept. A correct answer with steps shown is much more convincing than just an answer. This is also the philosophy behind my A/B/Not Yet grading scale. If I’m not convinced that students understand a concept, they are going to get a NOT YET until they have convinced me. “No Naked Numbers” refers to always including proper units when working a math problem. This is something I still need to do a better job of.
Lastly, students need to REFLECT on their answer. To do this, I gave students four questions to ask themselves.
1. Did you check your work and show all of your thinking?
2. Does your answer make sense?
3. Did you write a complete sentence summarizing your answer?
4. Did you use appropriate math vocab?
I’ve never had my students ask themselves these questions before. I get frustrated when students don’t check to make sure their answers make sense. But, I’ve never taught them to do this. I guess I’ve always assumed that they should have picked up this strategy somewhere along the way. But, it looks like if I want it to happen in my classroom, I’m going to have to explicitly teach students to do this. That’s one of the things I’m learning the more I teach. It’s the things I complain about that I need to make strides to change in my classroom.
I also want to start having students summarize their answers to each task with a complete sentence. This should force them to go back and look at what the problem was asking exactly. Hopefully, if a student has accidentally solved the problem for the wrong thing, they will realize it at this stage in the problem. A teacher can hope, right? 🙂
Here’s the entire poster I made without my smiling self in front of it.
My grad school assignment didn’t stop with just making a poster, though. I also had to demonstrate what it would look like to use this heuristic problem solving model on a problem.
I chose a problem from a sample ACT test: What is the maximum number of distinct diagonals that can be drawn in a regular hexagon?
For the SHOW step, I listed the knowns and unknowns for the problem. And, I chose to highlight key words in the problem.
For the ORGANIZE step, I chose which problem solving strategy I would use. I decided to draw a picture of a hexagon and draw in the diagonals by hand.
For the ACT step, I did just that. I drew a hexagon. Then, I started drawing in the diagonals. I used CWP (Color With a Purpose) to demonstrate my thinking. Then, I summarized my findings with a complete sentence: There are 9 distinct diagonals in a regular hexagon.
For the REFLECT step, I asked myself the questions from the poster.
So, why am I excited about this?
It is my hope that this model will help my students because it will force them to slow down and focus on the problem solving process. So often, my students complain that they cannot do a problem, and they refuse to even start solving the problem. However, it should give my students a structure that will help them start the problem. Even if students do not know how to solve the problem, they should still be able to SHOW what they know from the problem. Every student should be able to circle or underline key words and make a list of knowns and unknowns. The ORGANIZE step will have them think through what different problem solving strategies they have available to them. This should help my students get more familiar with practicing the problem solving strategies. Even if students do not end up implementing the problem solving strategy, they are still getting practice considering which strategy would be best to use.
The ACT stage is where my students normally start with a problem. They want to jump right into solving the problem without actually thinking about what the problem is asking or what route they are going to take towards an answer. I also like that the ACT stage reminds students to show all of their work/thinking and use appropriate units. The REFLECT stage of problem solving is what should be the real game changer in my classroom. Once students get an answer, they want to rush right on to the next question. They often don’t take the time to see if their answer even makes sense. For example, if we are solving for the number of watermelons in Susie’s car, the answer shouldn’t be 0.0001 or 100000000. I also like that this asks students to write their answer in a complete, cohesive sentence. This forces students to go back to the problem and see if they actually solved for what the problem was looking for in the first place.
I believe following this process will make my students into better problem solvers because it will mean that they are more engaged throughout the problem solving process. When they claim they don’t know what to do, I can ask them what stage they are on in SOAR. I haven’t actually used this with my students yet, but I think that I’m going to make some sort of graphic organizer that I will have my students fill out as they work through the SOAR process. I’m also thinking that I should make a SOAR foldable for students to keep in their notebooks and reference throughout the year. So many ideas. I can’t wait until next school year to try this out!
March 31, 2015 – The Wall Art to Prove It
Math really does equal love, and now I have the wall art to prove it. 🙂
For the past two years, I’ve been part of the secret pal program at my school. You fill out an info sheet about yourself. These get put in a pile. Each person draws another person’s info sheet and surprises them with gifts throughout the year. At the end of the year, the name of your secret pal is revealed at a party.
This year, my secret pal has gone above and beyond to make many of my gifts math-themed. If you know me at all, you should know that this makes me VERY happy. 😀
At Christmas, she surprised me with an I <3 Math stocking full of goodies.
A couple of months back, she gave me a mathematically themed movie. I didn’t take a picture of this, though…
This month’s gift, however, topped them all. My students have been telling me for several months now that I should make a poster that says Math = Love for my classroom. Now, there’s no need because my secret pal took care of that for me. (Though, I still want to do it now so others could share the belief that Math = Love with their students.) I’ve got it hanging right by my classroom door when you walk in.
I loved it so much that I (of course!) had to take a selfie with it.
April 10, 2015 – Asking Questions about Blogging
My approach to blogging is changing. My approach to the #MTBoS is changing. Let’s be honest. My approach to teaching is changing. Life, in general, has changed a lot these last few months.
Life has been oh-so-busy. Grad school is oh-so-time-consuming. Teaching is oh-so-hectic-as-always. Being featured on NPR was oh-so-exciting. Dating a guy who lives on the other side of the world is oh-so-awesome-and-exciting-and-just-a-tiny-bit-insane. Blogging has kind of taken a backseat to the rest of life lately. It is forcing me to reflect on just why blogging is important.
Do I want to blog? Yes.
Do I have things I want to blog about? Absolutely.
Do I have time to blog? Debatable.
Do I need to blog? No.
Should I blog? Most certainly.
Some days, I feel like blogging is in my blood. Except that’s not true. My parents aren’t bloggers. I don’t come from a family of writers. However, when my friends in high school were exploring Xanga, MySpace, and Facebook, I was a wanna-be knitting blogger. The knitting phase didn’t last, but my love of blogging did.
As I told an NPR reporter recently, I discovered the #MTBoS circa 2006. I was a high school trig student who was looking for help with her math homework. A google search led me to the Math Teacher Mambo blog. Shireen’s approach to teaching the topic made complete sense to me. I wondered why my trig teacher hadn’t explained the concept that way in the first place. I started to wonder just how many other math teaching strategies there were out there that I wasn’t aware of. So, high school junior me started reading math teacher blogs. Of course, I’d already decided at this point that I wanted to be a teacher. But, I’m pretty sure that reading math teacher blogs sealed the deal on my being a MATH teacher.
When I ran out of posts to read on Math Teacher Mambo, I started following links in the comments to other math teacher bloggers. I started a google doc to copy and paste the URLs of activities I wanted to do with my own students one day. To me, this was a perfectly normal thing to do as a high school student. Though, I’m learning that this just makes people think I’m weird. I think I prefer the term strangely passionate. When I’m committed to something, I go all-in.
(Here’s a link to the most recent NPR blog post I was mentioned in. I was able to talk up the MTBoS a bit in this one. :D)
Upon starting to spend time in classrooms while a math education student, I decided it was time to start my own blog. So, I did. I didn’t really have much to write about at that point. But, I felt this compulsion to give back to the community that I already owed so much to. I owed these people so much, and they didn’t even have a clue who I was. That was something I needed to fix. As I started student teaching, I started writing to reflect on what I was seeing and experiencing in the classroom.
My blogging became more earnest as I started my first year of teaching in a tiny town where I was suddenly the most experienced member of the math department. I didn’t really know what I was doing. Oh, I would pretend I knew what I was doing in my classroom. My blog, though, was my opportunity to admit that I didn’t have this whole teaching thing figured out. I still don’t have this teaching thing figured out, and I’m almost done with my third year. I’m well aware that I’m never going to figure out this whole teaching thing. When I think I’ve got it figured out, that’s when I need to quit and find a different job.
This blog has long been my chance to be honest. Writing is the best way I’ve found to process what is going on in my head and in my classroom. Writing requires thought. Reflection. Patience. Time. People thank me for being so open about my successes and my many failures in the classroom. I didn’t set out to showcase my brilliant ideas in a blog. My blog should be a reflection of what someone would see if they spent a chunk of time in my classroom. A few awesome lessons. Many more just mediocre lessons. A healthy dose of fun and games. A little slice of my personal life outside the classroom. Lots and lots of foldables. Tons of laughter. And, a few tears sprinkled in, too.
Let’s get back to the questions I answered earlier. I want to blog. I honestly enjoy it. And, there’s a ton of stuff I haven’t blogged about. So many notebook pages that it’s kinda crazy. Then, there’s all the tiny snippets of ideas that could be fleshed into something so much better. Time to blog is where I struggle. Grad school takes time. Maintaining a long-distance relationship takes time. Blogging takes time. There are only so many hours in the day. It would be crazy to think I could return to my once a day blogging of last summer. But, I can do a better job of blogging more regularly.
Do I need to blog? This is the answer that has changed the most for me. Two or three years ago, this would have been a most definite yes. Blogging was how I connected to other teachers. It’s how I kept from feeling completely isolated. I would come home from school during that first year and turn to twitter for advice on a regular basis. And, twitter would come through for me.
I’m more confident in my teaching now. Do I still have stuff to learn? Yes! But, I can handle the day-to-day requirements of being a teacher on my own. Before, I would blog about lessons because I had no one to tell about them otherwise. Dating a math teacher who is just as obsessed with teaching math as me means I have another outlet for talking about how my day went or how awesome my newest foldable is.
So, MTBoS, sorry to say this, but I just don’t need you the way I used to. But, don’t get me wrong. I still love you. I adore you. You’ve made me into the teacher I am today. And, you’re going to keep making me into a better teacher. You see, I’m not about to stop blogging. I may not need to blog. But, I should blog.
Blogging makes me a better teacher. Blogging forces me to reflect. Blogging opens me to new ideas and suggestions from others. There’s something powerful about trying to put into words what happened in my classroom. I don’t naturally reflect on my teaching as deeply or thoroughly as I should. The simple act of blogging makes that happen for me, though.
So, I’m going to keep blogging. And, I’m hopefully going to be blogging more. I think you’ll notice a change in my posts, however. Expect less long, in depth posts. Expect more short posts that give you a snippet of something that happened in my classroom and my reflections on it. I’ve got so many ideas that I want to share, but I have this fear that they’re not substantial enough for a blog post. I’ve decided I’m going to blog about them anyway. It’s my blog. I want to blog about them. And, I hope someone will find them to be useful.
April 10, 2015 – My Musings on Testing
It’s that dreaded time of year again.
The names are posted on the window of the trophy case to tell my students when to be where for testing. Today is the last day I have with my students before they test on Monday.
Where has this school year gone? Each year that I teach, the time seems to go by faster and faster and faster. It seems like only a couple of months ago that I was debating where to hang posters on my wall. Now, I’m thinking about taking down all of my decorations for the summer. My mind is already percolating with all of the new activities I want to create, blog posts I want to write, posters I want to make, and policies I want to change for next year over the summer months.
How will my kids do on their tests on Monday? I don’t know. I know I’ve covered all of the concepts. But, I’m well aware that there are so many concepts that I could have taught in a better way. I could have connected mathematical ideas better. I could have challenged my students with more rigorous problems. I could have done a better job of spiraling through review as the year progressed instead of solely focusing on review since returning from Spring Break. I learned a lot from implementing full-blown SBG this year for the first time. And, by that, I mean I made a heap of mistakes. The order I taught certain topics also made things worse. However, there are also things that I did a better job of teaching this year than I ever have before. Let’s just say my Algebra 2 students are going to rock the dividing polynomials section of the EOI. And, we didn’t use long division or synthetic division a single time! I made my Algebra 1 students justify their answers way more than I usually do. I held students to a higher standard than I have in the past.
In years past, I would be freaking out right about now. Will I be freaking out Monday morning? Yeah. Do you want to know why? I’m going to be in a room with my Algebra 1 students who are being forced to take a standardized test. A test that will tell my school district how well I did my job. A test that will label my students as smart or dumb. A test that will make me feel like a success or a failure. A test that will determine whether my students will be able to graduate with their high school diploma. A test that my kids will be stressing about because I’ve spent the entire year reminding them what a big deal it is. A test that many of my students are already convinced they are going to fail because they’ve never passed their standardized math tests before.
What if I taught an entire school year without ever mentioning our end of instruction exam? Could I do that? What if I tried to convince my students that they should learn math concepts on their own merit instead of forcing them to master concepts because they are tested? Food for thought…
April 18, 2015 – Group Board Work Strategy
Some days I have random ideas that work out well. Other days, my random ideas flop. Big time. The other day while doing last minute test prep review, I tried one of those random ideas.
Here was the scenario:
For the first forty or so minutes of class, we had been reviewing various calculator strategies. We had been practicing entering tables, turning stat plot on and off, and sketching inverses on the TI-84. I’m annoyed that I have to teach these things because it’s tedious and using Desmos would just be so much easier. But, my kids don’t get Desmos on their test. They get a TI-84.
After finishing the calculator review, I asked my students what else they wanted to review before their standardized test. This was their last chance to ask questions. They voted on doing a dividing polynomial problem that resulted in a remainder. I taught this using the box method this year, and it has been AWESOME.
This post isn’t about the box method. Though, I do need to still blog about it. If I don’t, please hold me to it. It’s pretty much life changing.
This post is about how I handled a dilemma I had. There was less than 10 minutes of class left. It didn’t seem like enough time to justify dragging out the dry erase boards, markers, and erasers. My kids can easily waste a few minutes trying to pick the perfect dry erase marker out of the bucket. I knew that I could ask students to get out a piece of paper. But, I think you know how kids are during the last 10 minutes of class on Friday on the last day before the test. If I did this, a few kids would, but more would probably just sit there and “pretend” to follow along without writing anything down.
In a moment of brilliance/insanity/not sure what, I told my students that we would just do the problem together. No white boards. No notebook paper. Normally this is the recipe for complete chaos and student disengagement. One person does the problem. The rest of the class watches. Or not.
But, I had a plan. My students had to do the problem together. With no help from me. On the SMARTboard. The twist? No student could write more than 3 terms on the board. And, no student could have more than one turn at the board.
Here’s what the finished problem looked like:
The class ACTUALLY worked together. The top students weren’t working ahead. The lower students weren’t off the hook. Because no student could fill in more than 3 terms, they had to communicate with one another. They had to pay attention to what the person ahead of them was doing.
Different students wanted to take slightly different approaches with writing out the process (highlighting versus circling like terms). So, they had to justify these to the class. Students who were confused about where we were in the process or where we were going were asking each other for help.
It was beautiful. Students working together. Students engaged. Students asking questions. Students answering each other’s questions. Students doing math. Students talking about math.
I definitely wouldn’t use this strategy every day. But, for those odd few minutes when you want students to work together without dragging out loads of supplies, this worked perfectly.
April 23, 2015 – Practice Problem Conundrum
Today, I want to answer a couple of questions I received in my e-mail. I hope that my answer can help more than just the teacher who sent in the question. Since I’m hoping this will become a regular thing on the blog, I even made a cute picture for these posts. 🙂
By the way, I’m terrible at replying to e-mails with questions. Hopefully this will help me get better at answering these types of e-mails.
Right now I use the textbook to give my students practice problems that they write over in their notes and can reference back to later how they did something (for a quiz, test, etc.). On your blog you mention whiteboards which I think are great, but the work that students did is erased and lost. So:
1) How do you give your students practice problems (where do you get them from, how do you present them)?
2) Do you have students write down their working out of practice problems in their INBs or do you find that it’s not necessary?
This is one way in which my approach to interactive notebooks is changing. When I first started doing interactive notebooks with my students, I was very controlling of what went on each page. I wanted my students to have notebooks that were identical to mine. We would do a few problems in our notebooks, but the majority of our practice happened on individual white boards. Several of my students started asking if they could include some of the whiteboard problems in their notebooks. I tried to making up a modified page numbering system to accommodate this. If we took notes on page 7 and students wanted to take extra notes, I would have them number these extra pages as 7B, 7C, etc. This was a hassle, and my students never really caught on.
This year, I’ve given up on page numbers. As long as my students have the notes in their notebooks, I’ve decided it doesn’t really matter what page the notes are on. It is nice to be able to tell the class to open up to page 52 to reference something, but I think it’s more important to have my students taken ownership of their notebooks. I’ve started to recognize that some of my students need lots and lots of practice problems in their notebooks. Other students benefit more from having a few practice problems in their notebooks and doing the rest of the problems on their dry erase boards.
So, I’ve started giving my kids an option. We start a new concept by getting out our notebooks. After taking notes and doing a few practice problems, I pause and give them the option to keep their notebooks out or to transition to a dry erase board for the rest of our practice time. My students who need the notes know that they need the notes. My students who prefer the boards often do so because they know that they are more willing to take risks in solving problems when mistakes can be wiped away with a swipe of the finger.
For next year, I think I’m going to have students number pages according to the learning goal. So, I can say turn to the notes for learning goal 14. This may be a different page number for each student, but we should still be able to reference our notes together as a class when necessary.
It comes down to knowing your students and what they need. I’m learning to be less controlling in certain areas because I know it’s what’s best for my students.
As to your first question, I get practice problems from a variety of sources. I frequently use problems from the free sample Kuta worksheets. I also keep a textbook or two around to steal problems from. But, my most frequent source for problems is the Test and Item Specs and Released EOI Items from the Oklahoma Department of Education. I try to expose my students to the wording they will see on their end-of-instruction exams. I also frequently just do google searches for various topics and steal worksheets and practice problems from other teachers on the Internet.
April 24, 2015 – What Worked; What Didn’t: Calculator Storage
For the past two years, I’ve been frustrated by calculator storage in my classroom. I had calculator tubs, but the calculators never seemed to make it back in the tubs. My school provides calculators for all of our students instead of asking our students to purchase their own calculators. Because these are the school’s calculators, my students sadly don’t take as good of care of them as they should.
This summer, I bought three shoe hangers at Tuesday Morning (pretty much my fav store!) to keep the calculators more organized. I had to do some rearranging in order to even find wall space to hang up the shoe hangers.
I had this idea that I thought was pretty brilliant. Students would enter my classroom. They would take a calculator out of a pocket. They would place their cell phone in the pocket. At the end of class, they would return their calculator and retrieve their cell phone. This would leave my room cleaner at the end of the day, and there would be no distractions from phones.
There was something I failed to account for with this plan. My students.
During the first week of school, one student stole another student’s phone out of their pocket to be silly. So, that was the end of having students put their phones in the pockets.
I’ve found that my students are much more likely to put their calculators back in the shoe holders than they were when I was using a tub. I have found that my students do a better job of putting them away if I give them a verbal reminder at the end of class to put away their calculators. I shouldn’t have to do this. But, I haven’t found a better way.
I don’t want my students packing up until the very end of class, so I can’t really hold the class until all of the calculators are put away. I do like that hanging the calculators on the wall has cleared up flat table space.
Did these solve all of my problems? No. Have they helped? Definitely.
Tweak I’m thinking about for next year: numbers on each calculator that match up with numbers on the pockets.
Also, I need to come up with a better system for students to check out calculators to use on their ACT exams. Writing names and calculator numbers on post-it notes and losing them in the mess on my desk is not cutting it.
May 4, 2015 – What Worked; What Didn’t: Paper Turn-In System
I kinda have an embarrassing announcement. I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to figure this out. For the first two years of my teaching career, I had a single turn in tray for all of my classes. This made grading miserable. I had to sort all of my papers into piles before I could start grading. Why I put up with this for two years, I don’t know.
I was frustrated. My students were especially frustrated when they went to retrieve work back out of the tray and had to dig through stacks of papers to find theirs. It was messy. It was disorganized. It got the job done, but it didn’t do it well. At all.
This year, I gave each class its own try to turn their papers into. Nothing fancy. Just a set of trays and mini post-it notes to label them.
I guess this post is a reminder to myself to never go back. Separate turn-in trays for each class period are definitely the way to go.
Tweaks for Next Year:
Better Tray Labeling System – My afternoon classes struggled with whether they should use the tray above or below their post-it note. Next year, I’ll put arrows on the labels. I’ll also hopefully come up with some prettier/fancier/more durable labels than just post-it notes.
Change Location of Turn -In Tray – When I had only a single turn-in tray, it lived on my desk. I definitely didn’t want a stack of 7 trays on my desk. So, I set them on top of a cabinet in the corner. Because of the daily migration of desks toward the wall, it soon became the case that there was always a desk pushed in front of this cabinet. The student sitting in front of the turn-in trays got very agitated when people were constantly leaning over their desk to turn in their papers. It definitely needs a new home for next year!
Unfinished Tray – Sometimes I had trouble differentiating between papers/quizzes that were turned in unfinished on purpose and papers of students who intended to come back and finish them. I tried having students write unfinished on papers, but they were less than consistent. Next year, I want to make a special tray for unfinished papers that the students plan on returning to complete. This will save my sanity and theirs!
May 5, 2015 – Q & A: Time Management with Interactive Notebooks
I am hopeful you’d be willing to share with me how to get started with the INBs. We operate on an A/B day schedule with 80 minute periods. I am reluctant to devote so much time to this process, especially when it sometimes takes more than 1 period to complete the fold-able for a given topic. Honestly, I am not really even sure about INBs, but I am desperate for an engaging stepping stone to collaborative groups. Any thoughts you’d be willing to share will be considered helpful!
INBs do take a lot of time and effort. Here’s my advice for spending time more wisely in class.
Prep, Prep, Prep!
Have students do as much prepwork before class begins as possible. When students enter the classroom, a list of supplies should be posted. Expect students to have all of the needed supplies out BEFORE the bell rings.
Here’s an example of one day’s supply list. I project this on the SMARTboard at the beginning of each period. I used to assume that students would just be able to read my mind and get out the necessary supplies. Students like it better this way. I like it better this way. If I have students get out a supply we don’t end up using, they call me out on it. They also call me out if I forget to put something on the supply list for the day. If you don’t have a SMARTBoard or IWB, this list could also be written on the dry erase board.
Some teachers have tables set up for students to grab handouts and foldable templates when they enter the classroom. Then, students can start the process of cutting and folding sooner. I haven’t found a way to make this work with my classroom set-up. Yet.
Decide What’s Worth It
Decide which information is worth having your students write down word for word and which information could be better reviewed by using fill-in-the-blank notes or even pre-printed notes. Each teacher will have a different opinion on this. That’s okay!
I alternate between all three types of notes throughout the year. Here are a few examples:
Example of Fill-in-the-blank Notes
Example of Completely Hand-Written Notes:
Example of Pre-Printed Notes:
Some days, I will start by expecting students to write out notes by hand. After having it take longer than intended during first hour, I will type up the notes and print them for my later classes. Always ask yourself – is this worth it?
Remember – You Can Make Things Worth It
Interactive notebooks do take more time. If kids are taking notes and never looking at them again, I think the notebooks are a waste of time. Save yourself and your students a major hassle and use a textbook. Most kids aren’t naturally going to turn to their notebooks for help. They’re going to turn to you. It’s hard, but I have to force myself to not answer questions that can be found in my students’ notebooks. The kids accuse me of being mean and probably call me all sorts of nasty names behind my back for this, but I really do think it helps my students. When I start forcing students to use their notebooks, they start taking better notes. If I ask a question that no one in the class can answer, I make the entire class turn to the appropriate page in their notebook. No exceptions. I have to sell my students on the notebooks, and the only way I’ve found to do that is to make them use them. So, making foldables and filling out graphic organizers is more time consuming. But, I feel that I can redeem that time by making my classroom a place where students reference their notebooks regularly.
Set a Timer
When I give my students a notebook task to do, they can easily stretch it to take three times longer than I intended. Cutting things out is the worst because they seem to talk to their neighbors way more than they are actually cutting. To combat this, I decide how long it should take students to complete a task. If it’s a one minute task, I set a timer for a minute and a half. If it’s a two minute task, I set a timer for three minutes. Usually, I try to allow 1.5 times the amount I *think* it should take. Inform students that as soon as the timer goes off, you will be moving on whether they are ready or not. My kids hate this, but it really does help to keep them (and me!) on focus.
Don’t Give Up
Keep at it. Notebooks may be rough for a while. Please don’t give up. Tweak things. Try something new. Don’t feel like you have to have a perfect notebook page every day. Not every notebook page is Pinterest-worthy. My notebooks get better and better each year. I’m still learning. My students who are on their second or third notebook with me are helping me to get better. They give me advice on what works best for them. Listen to this feedback. Give your students the opportunity to share feedback about the notebooks. There isn’t such a thing as a perfect notebook, but we can all strive to make our notes better and better.
May 8, 2015 – Thank You!
To all the teachers out there reading this blog post, thank you. Thank you for all the hard work you put into your job day in and day out. Thank you for going to work each day and putting your heart and soul into what you do with no guarantee of receiving even a simple thank you. I am a product of all the teachers I have been blessed to have in my own life, including my first and most loyal teachers: my family.
May 17, 2015 – Starting Over
I’ve been reading math teacher blogs since I was a high school junior. Yes, I realize that’s weird. But, I also think it’s a large part of what has made me into the teacher I am today.
This school year, though, has been crazy. Balancing life, grad school, teaching, blogging, and reading blogs has been trying at times. My blogging definitely suffered this year, but my reading of blogs was that spinning plate that I let drop completely to the floor and shatter into a million pieces. I had so many unread blog posts in Bloglovin that I discovered it doesn’t keep all of your unread posts but maxes out at what appears to be 800 or so. For someone who is subscribed to 871 blogs, this is a problem.
So, from September – mid-April or so, I stopped reading blog posts. I just didn’t have the time or the energy. I would feel guilty sometimes. I would wonder what amazing ideas I was missing out on. But, the more I got behind, the harder it was to jump back into to reading blogs.
Last month, I did something that isn’t at all like me. I switched to Feedly. I’d tried it once before, but I wasn’t impressed. This time, it reminds me much more of my beloved Google Reader. I deleted all of my subscriptions and started over. I just a handful of my favorite blogs and started there. I read any posts from the last two or so months, but I ignored the older posts. As a perfectionist, this was a hard thing to do. But, I know that any amount of blog reading is going to make a bigger difference on me as a teacher than zero blog reading.
As I’ve been keeping up with my subscriptions, I’ve let my number of subscriptions grow up to 149. This is so much more manageable than my previous number of 871 subscriptions. I’ve also given myself permission to not follow every single math teacher blog in the world. I know my blog isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, so why shouldn’t it be the same for me? If I don’t find a blog to be interesting or useful, I’m not subscribing. If it seems like all a blogger is doing is trying to sell me products they created, I’m not subscribing. I’m giving myself the freedom to make my blog reading work for me.
I write all this to say: A fresh start is okay.
May 27, 2015 – Classroom Supplies and Manipulatives
What are some of your favorite manipulatives to use in math class?
This question reminded me of a post I set out to do a year ago. Last year, as I was cleaning up my classroom for the summer, I decided I should do a blog post about what manipulatives and supplies I keep in my cabinet in my classroom. I took all the pictures, but I never actually got around to writing the post. So, these pictures are now a year old, but they’re still a pretty good representation of what you’ll find in my cabinets.
So, I present to you: Things in Ms. Hagan’s cabinet. Some are manipulatives. Others are just random stuff that sometimes comes in useful for my classroom.
Storage Tubs for Each Group of Desks – I used these my first year of teaching. Things got unorganized way too fast. Haven’t used them since…
Pattern Blocks – I have to admit that I actually haven’t ever used these for anything…
Coordinate Grid Stamps – I inherited these from the previous math teacher. My students have used these a handful of times, but the ink seems to bleed through the paper too much to be able to write on both sides of the paper.
Walk-On Number Line – My mom picked this up for me at a yard sale. I think this would be really cool to use to make a human dot plot.
Spinners – These were also inherited from the previous teacher. I need to find a way to incorporate these into my statistics class next year!
Ping Pong Balls – I picked these up in the Target Dollar Spot. I still haven’t found a project to use them for. I know they will come in handy one day, though!
Graphing Calculators – Not sure I need to explain my having these…
Scissors – Necessary for making foldables!
Rulers – I keep a tub of rulers out at all times for my students to use whenever necessary.
Dry Erase Erasers – I promise I’ve got newer ones since then. But, they probably look just as bad as these now.
Liquid Glue – I prefer stick glue for foldables, but every once in a while, my kids need liquid glue for a project. My classroom has become to the go-to place to come for supplies when my students have projects to do for other classes.
Colored Markers – Absolutely necessary for pretty INB pages! Plus, math is more fun in marker.
Folding Meter Sticks
Rubber Bands – Necessary for Barbie Bungee. I’ve done Barbie Bungee for the last two years and still haven’t blogged about it.
Playing Cards and other Statistics Supplies – I picked up the mini-roulette wheel at a yard sale. We used it in statistics last year to model the probability of winning various casino games. And, don’t worry, I threw out the game cards that were meant for a bachelorette party.
Protractors – I don’t teach geometry, but I might need these someday…
Popsicle Sticks – These came in handy for making gummy bear launchers in stats.
Barbies and Wrestling Dudes – It’s amazing that after two years of bungee jumping that they are still all alive! 😉
If you don’t have a classroom set of dry erase pockets, you could also use heavy duty sheet protectors. But, I highly recommend investing in a classroom set of the pockets since they are so much more durable.
Dry Erase Boards
Cap Erasers. My students are always in need of erasers.
Library Pockets – I bought these to make a ZAP game, but I still haven’t done that.
Tangrams – I used these as a challenge on the first day of school to demonstrate mindset. Occasionally, students will still pull them out of the cabinet to play with them.
Foam Washers – I keep thinking that I will use these as a sort of game piece, but it hasn’t happened yet.
Paint – This is leftover from painting my classroom. Occasionally, I do have to touch up the walls. Last summer, they took the radiators out of our classrooms, so I had to paint behind the radiator.
Miscellaneous Tubs – These have served so many purposes. Colored Pencil holders. Sorting tubs.
Tennis Balls – I used these for a linear regression lab.
De-Icer – This has nothing to do with teaching. It’s just a reflection of my fear that my car will ice over while I’m at school, and I won’t be able to make it home. Better safe than sorry.
Mini Trash Cans – I thought that I would let students put paper scraps in these as they did cutting at their desk. But, they soon started throwing random trash in them. Now, I just make my kids get up and walk to the trash can. Maybe I’ll try these again next year???
Sand Timers – Perfect for games and activities
Though these sand timers are a bit weird. They look like they would all be three different amounts of time. But, they all empty in exactly three minutes.
Tools – Because you never know when you might need to fix something. The most used tool in here would be the tape measure!
Flip Chutes – These function as function machines in my classroom. But, I’m sure I could come up with multiple other uses for them!
Clear Picture Frames – I bought these on the recommendation of another blogger. They use them for station instructions. But, confession – I’ve never actually done stations with my students.
Toy Cars – I will come up with a lesson that involves these someday.
COLORED PAPER – best classroom tool ever!
Pocket Charts – I planned on using these to sort names for student groups. That didn’t happen this year, though.
Filetastics – I got excited when I found these at Mardel for 75% off. But, I only have space to hang one of these in my classroom. 🙁
Fly Swatters – Not for actually killing flies. That would be gross. We use them for the fly swatter game.
IQ Circle Puzzles – These were also used on the first day of school for a mindset activity.
Post-It Notes – It is not possible to have too many of these.
Giant rubber bands for closing student interactive notebooks
Traffic light stickers – Honestly, I forgot that I had bought these. I planned to use them for student self-assessment. I guess I should make this a goal for next year.
Page flags to mark units in INBs – I’m not sure if these were worth the hassle…
White-Out – I have too many students who insist on writing in pen. I loan out white-out a lot.
Popsicle Stick Containers for Each Class – This year I wrote each student’s name on a popsicle stick. I used these to randomly call on students.
Mini-Envelopes – These worked perfectly for keeping unfinished INB projects together. We also used them to hold our flashcards that I have yet to blog about.
Cute notes – Sometimes I think I was probably meant to be an elementary teacher…
So, these aren’t currently in my classroom. They’re lids that I stole from my kitchen that we used in trig to trace circles. Math manipulatives don’t have to be fancy!
Pipe Cleaners – We used these to discover radians. I’ve also used them to demonstrate the vertical line test.
We also made our own clinometers this year in trig. Paper, paper clips, glue, string, and a washer make a pretty nifty tool for figuring out how tall our school building is.
June 3, 2015 – Follow the Pattern
One of my blog readers mailed me this puzzle earlier this year. Warning: it’s a tough one!
I love getting mail at school that isn’t people trying to sell me stuff…
He even provided me with an answer that was hidden so I couldn’t cheat.
I pondered this puzzle for WEEKS. I showed it to my sister. She was stumped, too. I showed it to some students who happened to be hanging out in my room at lunch. We could not figure it out.
I actually never ended up figuring it out myself. I tweeted about trying to solve it, and someone tweeted back with the answer to the puzzle even though I had specified “no spoilers, please.”
After seeing the answer, I’m not sure if I would have ever actually come up with the answer myself. But, I guess I’ll never know now. It’s a good reminder to me to not give the answers away too quickly to my students.
June 4, 2015 – A Spelling Bee
I’ve always loved spelling bees. I won the school-wide spelling bee in the fourth grade. To win, I had to spell, “macaroni.” Winning my school spelling bee gained me entrance to the regional spelling bee. Winners from that regional bee would go on to the state bee, and the winner of the state bee would go to the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Alas, I never made it past the regional spelling bee. I misspelled “martian.” I’ve always avoided anything to do with science fiction, and it proved to be my downfall that day.
So, why am I telling you this? Well, for the last two years, I’ve had this idea of having a spelling bee in my math class. I guess I would need to call it a math bee since it actually won’t involve any spelling.
Here’s how it would work. Display an algebraic expression, equation, or inequality on the board. Have a few students stand in a row, spelling bee style. Ask the first student in the row to read what is written on the board. If they read it correctly, they get to remain standing. If they read it incorrectly, they must sit down.
Why? Well, I’ve found that my students haven’t really ever been taught to read mathematics. Mathematics is a language of precision. 3(2) + 5 is not the same as 3(2 + 5). I tell myself every year that this is going to be the year that I am super picky about how we speak math in my classroom. And, every year, I am super picky about a few things. But, I even find myself sometimes slipping up and reading a problem aloud in a less than precise manner. I justify it in my mind by saying, “Well, students know I actually meant ‘times the quantity of’ instead of just ‘times’ because there are clearly parentheses in the problem as it is shown on the SMARTBoard.” It’s really just me being sloppy, though.
Would this work? Or am I just having crazy thoughts?
This really is just a half-formed idea. Hoping someone in the #MTBoS can make it better.
June 5, 2015 – 2015-2016 School Year Resolutions
Earlier, I shared with you what my students think I should Keep, Change, Start, and Stop. After reading through their suggestions, I decided to make my own resolutions to keep, change, start, and stop in three areas.
KEEP the notebooks at the center of everything we do in class.
CHANGE how much practice ends up in the notebook. In the past, I’ve had students do a problem or two in their notebooks and then moved to dry erase boards for the rest of the practice. This means that the practice problems in the notebook tend to be much easier than the problems on the quizzes. This was a big request of my students. They want more worked examples to look back at.
START letting students use their notebooks on their quizzes. I’ve done this in the past on occasion. I’ve found that I tend to let students use their notebooks when they come into reassess a skill. Why shouldn’t I just let them use it in the first place??? Maybe this means students will take more ownership of their notebooks if they know they get to use it on the quizzes.
STOP stressing over table of contents and page numbering. Let the kids make the notebooks their own.
SBG Grading System
KEEP making students redo all quizzes until they make an A or a B.
CHANGE the structure of my quizzes. More quizzes. Fewer questions. I want my quizzes to have a uniform look throughout the year.
START and end the year with the same policy on homework. No switching gears half way through the year.
STOP letting students retake a quiz right away. Make them do something to earn the right to retake a quiz.
KEEP communicating with parents and my principal. I actually started doing an okay job with this at the end of this past year. Now, I just need to do it from the start of the year!
CHANGE how I deal with whole-class misbehavior. I’m pretty good at dealing with a student or two who are doing something they shouldn’t. I struggle, though, when my entire class seems to not be able to shut their mouths when I am trying to teach. I need to come up with a plan for this and be adamant about following it from DAY ONE!
START focusing on just a couple of things I want to get better at. I need to pick 2 or 3 rules and enforce those every single day. I have a habit of wanting to make 15 changes with classroom management. I end up keeping none of them because it’s way too overwhelming.
STOP putting up with cell phone use at inappropriate times.
June 6, 2015 – My #MTBoS Blog Roll
A little while back, I posted about starting over with my RSS reader subscriptions. I switched from bloglovin to feedly, and I decided to start from scratch with the blogs I follow. Some of you lovely people left me comments wanting to know which math teacher blogs are my favorites. That’s kind of a hard question to answer because there are so many amazing blogs out there with so many great ideas. I’m hesitant to post this list because I know I’ve missed a ton of great blogs. This list is not my “favorite blogs” but is comprised of the first 25 blogs I thought to add to my feedly account. Looking at this list, they almost all fall in the following categories: * teachers who live in the same state as me * teachers I have met in person * teachers I talk to regularly on twitter * teachers who love interactive notebooks as much as me * teachers whose blogs I started reading when I was still a high school student I hope you find a new blog or two to follow! And, if you want to post your must-read #MTBoS blogs (or provide a link to your own blog!), please do so in the comments. 😀
June 7, 2015 – A Question About a Question
First, let’s celebrate 500 blog posts. 😀 Yay.
Okay, now we can get back to math-y business.
Every year, in preparation for the end of instruction exams my students must take in Algebra 1 and Algebra 2, I try to expose to them to as many released test questions as possible. I want my students to feel comfortable when taking the test. I don’t want there to be any surprises. I want them to get used to the way in which questions are worded. I want them to recognize commonly used distractor choices. I want to remind them of all the math we have learned that year.
Most of these questions are your normal snooze-worthy standardized test questions that are less than exciting. My students tolerate them because they know that their graduating high school depends on passing these exams. But, you can tell that they are bored. Honestly, I’m bored, too.
There’s one question, though, that for the past three years has always sparked awesome conversations. Students seem to come alive when discussing this question. I thought I would share it today.
What is it about this question that excites my students? I want to know because I want to engage my students on a regular basis in the way this question does.
Oh, and if you’re interested in seeing more of Oklahoma’s past standardized test questions for some reason, here’s the link.
June 10, 2015 – End of Year Concept Maps in Algebra
I had my students complete concept maps about algebra at the beginning and end of the school year. Here are their end of year reflections. My commentary goes ABOVE each picture. 🙂
And, here’s a link to their concept maps from the beginning of the year for comparison.
This year’s focus on What Would Slope Dude Say in Algebra 1 was a definite keeper for the future!
Fastest Class 😀
More love for Slope Dude 😀
I guess I should focus more on showing how algebra applies to real life…
We never played chess. I’m so confused by this one.
Are any of your kids obsesed with the number 21? Stupid vine…
I wish there was a way to make math less stressful. Or a way to show my students that math can be stressful in a good way.
Another mention of my classroom being colorful. 🙂
They better not be killing cats!
Why is NPR attached to my being a crazy cat lady???
I like that “hard working” is included even among more negative descriptors.
“Bain workout” makes me smile!
All things math. That’s my goal! 🙂
I guess NPR made a definite impression on my students!
Ms. Hagan’s voice. I’m not sure what to make of that.
Hard quizzes. My students claim I make the notes easy and the quizzes hard. That’s something I’m trying to work on this summer.
And, you can’t do the quadratic formula without Pop! Goes The Weasel!
Witzzle for the win!
I like that this student made the effort to come in for help before school, after school, and at lunch even if I didn’t find a way to make them love math.
E over I has changed teaching rational exponents forever.
Honesty hurts. A lot.
We did deal with a ton of fractions. And, I do love the box method for polynomials. Their quadratic formula could use a little work, though…
Calculator steps for entering fractions. Math. Over. Up. Enter. I only said this five million times.
This concept map makes me sad.
The best jokes. See, someone likes my jokes. 😉
Logic puzzles do make me happy. And, free candy makes my students happy.
Apparently, I tell little kid jokes. But, my students’ alternative to my little kid jokes are racist jokes. Not cool.
I guess not everyone likes logic puzzles…
More of the same concept map. Apparently this student is stressed I won’t follow him on twitter.
Ms. Hagan is on twitter. I think it stresses my students out that I have more twitter followers than them.
Let’s set the record straight. Ms. Hagan owns ZERO cats. ZERO. ZERO. ZERO.
I wouldn’t let this student heat up ramen noodles during my class one day. Why they felt a need to mention that, I’m not sure.
Easy sometimes. Not always.
Famous math teacher. 🙂
Grading scale is amazing. I think so, too.
Notebooks = Fun. I like that they pointed out things in their notebooks could be in their own words. My students start customizing their notes as the year progresses, and it’s an awesome thing to watch.
Awwww. So sweet.
Calculator shortcuts are our friend!
June 16, 2015 – Students Speak Out About Ms. Hagan
I had a ton of fun reading through my Algebra 2 students’ letters of advice to next year’s students. As I was typing out the best snippets of their responses, I felt like I was reading through an edition of Things Teenagers Say. These are my kids. My funny, sweet, brutally honest, drive-me-crazy-but-I-love-them kids. My Algebra 2 classes were something special this year. That’s probably because the majority of these kids were my first ever Algebra 1 students. They were learning algebra at the same time I was learning to teach. They’ve seen me grow as a teacher, and I’ve been able to see them grow as mathematical thinkers. Our class periods were filled with lots of laughter, tons of math, and too many inside jokes to keep up with. And, I get to continue the mathematical journey with quite a few of them in statistics next year. I’m super excited about that.
Teaching in a small school (~150 kids in 9-12) definitely has its downsides. But, the relationships I’m able to develop with my students as I teach most of them 2-3 times before they graduate is worth it. So worth it.
Because these students have known me much longer than my Algebra 1 students, their advice was more thought out and clever. I want to give it the attention it deserves, so I’ll be posting snippets of their advice over several posts instead of one super long post. There is a special section at the bottom for student comments regarding my cat lady status and terrible joke telling ability. Life as a high school teacher is hard…
Today: Students Speak Out About Ms. Hagan
Despite what other students may say, Ms. Hagan is a very good teacher and everything that she does is to help you.
I do advise that you make appropriate yet very hilarious pi jokes so that Ms. Hagan takes time out of her class to write it down and that gives you more time to talk to your friends and helps decrease depression caused by the previous classes of your dreadful day.
Be nice to everyone – especially Ms. Hagan. Bring her lots of vegetables and compliment her cats.
Ms. Hagan is an amazing, great teacher. That’s why she was on NPR.
Be nice to Ms. Hagan. She controls your grades.
Miss Hagan is one of the BEST teachers you’ll ever have. She is super funny if you pay attention to the comments she makes.
Ms. Hagan is pretty chill. She’s nice “most” of the time. Stay on her good side like I was. I never got in trouble. And if you get on her bad side, you’ll probably hate this class.
Pay attention and get involved in the lessons, and you’ll do great. Enjoy yourself! Ms. Hagan makes math fun!
Miss Hagan’s class is fun if you cooperate with her!
Ms. Hagan is the best math teacher we have ever had. So, take advantage of what she teaches you. She has her own unique way of teaching, and it really works.
Ms. Hagan is an amazing and fun teacher. That is all.
Ms. Hagan is one of the best teachers in the world! (She’s been on NPR 🙂 ) She’s always willing to help her students before or after school and even on lunch break! A lot of teachers aren’t willing to do that…
Also, Ms. Hagan is one of the most sarcastic people I have ever met in my life and sassy! Just remember to always pay attention and always respect Ms. Hagan because she’s the most sweetest, thoughtful, caring, and the world’s best teacher… <3
Make Ms. Hagan call Ellen back. And, if she does, tell her to lie about how much she watches it.
Algebra II is a tough class, but Sarah makes it easy and fun. I would have never thought I would pass the End of Instruction test, but with Sarah Hagan’s professional help, I did. Sarah Hagan’s help is golden in this Algebra 2 class.
Ms. Hagan will always be willing to help her beloved, perfect, amazing students.
Hard work pays off. She is always willing to be there to help you. There is no excuse. She will always tell you that you are doing good or will always be there to help you through it if you are struggling. She gives the same amount of respect she gets.
Ms. Hagan is a really fun teacher, and she makes the class enjoyable. The class does get overwhelming at times, but try not to worry so much and ask for help. While in this class at the first of the year, I was freaking out thinking I was going to fail. But, as the year went on, I stressed less and asked for help to keep up my grade.
Ms. Hagan makes this class easy even though it may not seem like it in the beginning.
She may be cranky, and it may not be fun everyday, but she cares and will help you with anything you need.
I have never loved math, but this year her math class was fun. Still didn’t love it, but it was interesting.
Her class is always bright and colorful. Usually her room is organized, too.
She stays on track.
You need to be preapred when you come to class. Ms. Hagan doesn’t like it when you waste her time. Don’t disrupt the class either because Ms. Hagan will give you a piece of paper and send you out of the room.
Ms. Hagan is actually a cool teacher. She does love math too much, but she is a good teacher and you will more than likely learn things in here.
Also, she hates being called by her real name. But, if you wanna see her give the entire class a goofy look, you should call her Sarah.
If you can get her going on something she likes to talk about, you can waste a lot of time. One good subject is Australia. And her cats.
She’s a pretty cool cat. (She has cats. Don’t let her lie to you.) Cherish her, okay?
Algebra 2 is a very fun class. You will enjoy being in here! You will like this class because you can make fun of Miss Hagan being a crazy cat lady, and she won’t even get mad.
And for the sake of everyone in the class – nay – everyone in the world, please do not kill any amount of cats or Ms. Hagan will get very sad because she is a crazy cat lady and has many cats. If you kill even one, she will slip into a deep dark depression.
Always ask Ms. Hagan about her cats. She likes when you do.
Don’t forget that Ms. Hagan is a cat lady. So, if you’re allergic to cats, just skip class because I’m sure there is cat hair everywhere.
P.S. Ask her about her cats. And her jokes.
Oh, and make sure you laugh at her math jokes even if they are not funny.. lol
If you guys have Friday Funnies, always laugh at Ms. Hagan’s jokes, even if you don’t think they’re funny. It makes her feel better. (I actually like her jokes, though. Please don’t hate me.)
Do not say racist jokes.
If you want Ms. Hagan’s joke to be funny, laugh really obnoxiously loud. If not, then it will just be silence.
Although we complain about math, we all love her class, and she is one of the best math teachers I’ve ever had. P.S. Her jokes suck.
Her Funny Friday jokes aren’t really that funny. But, if you laugh, she’ll keep telling jokes. Then, you won’t have to do as much work.
June 17, 2015 – Students Speak Out About A/B/Not Yet
This year, I only gave three different grades for each assignment or quiz. An A. A B. Or a Not Yet. If students didn’t make an A or a B on an assignment or quiz, they had to retake it until they did. I still have plans to write up a reflection and comprehensive post about this approach, but that will take some time. Until then, enjoy my Algebra 2 students’ advice to future students about this grading system.
Her grading scale could be an angel or the devil.
Ms. Hagan’s class can be difficult at first, but you will eventually get used to it. To get good grades, redo every paper you get a Not Yet on until you get an A or B. Make sure you know all the material really well, or else you will get left behind.
If you have a not yet, come make it up. You’re dumb if you don’t because you could literally have a 100% in this class all year just by making up work.
The grading scale may seem like it sucks, but she will help you by letting you redo your work. It actually helps you learn the material better.
I complained a lot about the A, B, and Not Yet grading system, but now I realize that I wouldn’t have learned anything, and I would have had a good grade on the end.
This class is challenging, but you have to push through the difficulty. Take full advantage of Ms. Hagan’s grading system. It will help you out in the end.
Some people hate the grading scale Miss Hagan uses, but if you show effort to get your grade up, it is really easy. But, if you don’t have the time to come in and make up homework and retake tests, then you can just bring her a cat or something to do with cats, and that might help you get on her good side at least.
All I can say is you will hate the grading system. Everyone does. The people that say they like it are lying. Trust me.
With Ms. Hagan’s grading system, it is easy to fail this class. However, if you keep track of all of your assignments, you will have an extremely high A. Trust me. You will get Not Yets. Don’t stress about it. All you have to do is take another one. With my personal experiences, my grade varies from a 93% to a 62%. That is what not-yets do.
You cannot fail her class unless you just don’t try to pass.
If the grading system is still in place, don’t accept zeroes or any other grade besides a one hundred. Otherwise, it is likely your grade will drop.
You can learn a lot in this class, so pay attention. A lot of us complain about her and her grading system, but she really is a great teacher.
Attend the parent teacher conference for her class because that’s likely your only chance for extra credit because she doesn’t believe in extra credit.
Another good word of advice is to not be afraid of asking for help. Asking for help is something vital for making a good grade in this class. Not asking for help allows your not yets to pile up fast.
Tests are usually harder than the examples she gives you. But, you should be able to retake the test or fix your problems on papers if Ms. Hagan keeps her grading style.
The tricks Ms. Hagan uses really help. She makes things seem easy. Your grade should stay up if you really care and pay attention.
Ms. Hagan’s grading system is really good. It gives you a great chance to make really good grades in her class.
Ms. Hagan is always willing to help you with your grade if you’re willing to. She will let you come in at anytime to make up your work or to help you with it.
Just be sure to work hard. No one likes getting NOT YETS, and I mean no one likes them.
You probably get the grading scale “A, B, Not Yet.” It’s annoying, but it actually helps you out with this class.
Show all your work, or you’ll get a Not Yet. 🙁
June 18, 2015 – Students Speak Out About Notebooks and Other Stuff
Okay. This is the end of my Algebra 2 students’ advice for future students. I’ve broken it down into categories to make it a bit easier to digest and easier for me to reflect on.
If you know how to work the calculator, the class will be a piece of cake.
Graphing is a lot more fun because of the calculator. One thing that does help you is you get to always use your calculator on your work and tests.
You really seriously entirely need to use a calculator.
If you do decide to copy off of someone, make sure that you copy their work also. Ms. Hagan will check.
When you cheat, you gotta go all in. Copy the work and everything, but make sure you get it from one of the smart kids.
Say funny things and you will make the twitter page.
Follow Ms. Hagan on twitter and retweet everything so that she will actually know you exist.
Take pride in the fact that our teacher is world-wide famous and make sure to brag about how famous she is on your own Twitter account.
Watch what you say in class, too, because you might end up on Ms. Hagan’s blog.
Miss Hagan will tweet something you say, but she won’t @ you. P.S. Ms. Hagan, my twitter name is @XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX Just in case you tweet me. Hit me with a follow!
She’s famous too, so she thinks she can like skip school or something because she is famous. So, if she isn’t here, that’s why. She’s really not sick.
You have to be careful about what you say in her class because she will either tweet about you or send you out.
Buy a really good notebook so it will last all year.
You’ll learn so much in Algebra 2! It will be a lot to absorb, but with your notebook you should remember everything (if you keep up with your notebook).
Trust Ms. Hagan and all her crazy notebook pages. They may not look like it, but they really do help you as long as you study.
You are probably going to hate the notebook. A lot of us did. I thought it was stupid, but it helps a lot.
Take good notes. Make them to where you can understand what you need to know.
Write as many notes as you can because sometimes you can use them on the test, and it can be very helpful.
Be glad she does in class notes because they are really helpful (if there is enough detail). They are good for studying and what not.
Ms. Hagan is good at teaching math and also at making it fun. She doesn’t use the textbook. You make your own notebook that has better information than a textbook and is easier to remember. Sometimes you even do origami and games on the smart board.
To be successful in this class, you need to pay attention everyday and always write your notes. If you miss a day, make sure you can get your notebook caught back up and learn what you missed. If you don’t understand something, ask questions. If you’re feeling lazy one day, you should still write your notes because it’s easy to get behind.
If you don’t take notes, you won’t learn anything in this class. Notes might sound boring and sometimes they suck, but they do help you.
Try your best to look like you enjoy the class.
Please try in this class or you will hate life for the whole year.
Tell Ms. Hagan that she should bring back Slope Dude in Algebra 2 instead of just leaving him in Algebra 1.
The worst possible thing for you to do is not pay attention in class.
You should always take this class seriously and provide Miss Hagan with your full attention.
She doesn’t like it when people are talking while she is teaching, so try to stay away from that.
Complain when she gives you a quiz with problems that are 10 times harder than the ones she taught you.
Don’t stress over the EOI. It’s an easy test if you pay attention in her class.
The advice I give to the next class is that you better be prepared to do a lot of math and having Ms. Hagan ring the bell to get you guys to be quiet.
Keep your phones up and pay attention because math is VERY confusing. And, if you don’t pay attention, you’re going to be very lost because Ms. Hagan teaches very, very, very fast.
When you are doing conic sections, pay extra attention because they are just really confusing like every other part of math. But, I mean it’s just really confusing. So pay attention.
The hardest thing to learn is conic sections. They are frustrating, but you will understand them eventually.
You’ll have some fun in this class, but most of the time you will do math.
Don’t sit by people who will hold you back from learning.
Overall, it’s a fun class that gets easier as the year goes on.
Sit at the front of the classroom. It helps a lot more than you would think.
You should not talk while Ms. Hagan is teaching. She hates that, and she’ll send you out in the hall and make you write what you did wrong.
If you would like to truly succeed in Algebra 2, you need to sit in the back and not sit by anyone dumb.
Tip 1: If you’re nice to Ms. Hagan, then she will be nice to you.
Tip 2: Always be prepared for class and prepare to learn something new about math.
Tip 3: If you’re really not understanding the lesson too well, then she will be at school early in the morning so you can come in and get help or she will stay after school and help you understand it better than what you did before.
Tip 4: Keep good grades in the class because it’s kinda hard to get your grades back up. But, you can get them back up if you really work hard.
Tip 5: Ms. Hagan went to Australia this summer. So, ask her about it and ask her to show you the pink lake.
Tip 6: If you get hot in the class, turn the AC on Turbo Cool, and don’t let your classmates turn it off because it will feel like a sauna in the class. So, keep it on and feel breezy.
When we write on the boards, you should bring your own marker and eraser because Ms. Hagan’s suck.
Don’t over think things because if you do, you’ll get frustrated. And, it’s not as hard as you think it is.
Sit in the front of the class, especially if you don’t understand math.
June 22, 2015 – Student Made Algebra Foldables 2014 – 2015
On the day after the EOI, I gave my Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 students a project that I’ve used before: design your own interactive notebook page. This time around, I made a few changes. I asked them to think about something that would have been helpful to have in their notes to study for their EOI. The test was fresh in their minds and so was whatever concepts they had struggled with.
They had to either choose something that wasn’t include in our notebook pages or take a notebook page I had created for them and make it better in some substantial way. This year’s twist? Students had to have their rough draft approved by me before they could start on their final draft. This led to (I think) a lot more thoughtful pages. I was able to spot some student misconceptions along the way, too. Plus, I was able to tell a lot of students that they needed more examples or remind them that they needed to include some sort of graphic organizer or foldable. I sent several students back to the drawing board, and I felt okay with doing this because I knew that this was only a rough draft.
Some students were a little sneaky and didn’t let me approve their rough drafts. In the future, I would give them some sort of planning/signature page where I had to sign off on the project at various stages. Remember – these are student created pages. There are mistakes. There are very vague and misleading directions.
I’m posting these as inspiration for you to use in your classroom. Take a student idea and make it better. There are a lot of these, so I’ll post them over multiple days to avoid totally overloading you with photos.
Conic Sections Foldable – I’m not going to post the inside because it is barely legible.
Completing the Square Notes
Geometric Sequences and Series
Rationalizing the Denominator Foldable
Conic Sections: Circles
Calculator Steps Foldable
Stem and Leaf Plot Notes
Conic Section Foldable
Completing the Square Notes
Box and Whisker Plot Poster
Divide Polynomials Using the Box Method
July 14, 2015 – More Student Made Foldables
I started posting student made foldables a few weeks ago, but I got sidetracked by a cold. Here are some more:
July 18, 2015 – Beginning and End of Year Concept Map Foldable for INBs
For the past two years, I have participated in the Oklahoma Geometry and Algebra Project, or OGAP. One of the requirements for this program was having my students complete concept maps at the beginning and end of each year. I love this activity, and I always learn a lot about how my students view algebra, mathematics in general, and my classroom.
Since that program is over, I no longer have to collect concept maps and submit them for analysis. I still want to continue having my students do a concept map at the beginning and end of each year, though. I’ve decided to make a place in our interactive notebooks for students to keep their concept maps. At the beginning of the year, students will make a concept map, glue it in, and seal it shut with a piece of tape (or sticker). At the end of the year, students will make another concept map and write a reflection over how their view of algebra and mathematics has changed.
To keep these more organized looking, I made templates for two booklet foldables.
I left the subject area blank. You can have students write it in themselves, or you can download the editable Publisher file.
The inside of the booklet foldable has a place for students (or you) to fill in the subject area and lots of blank space to write!
The end of year foldable is very similar.
Free Download of Beginning and End of Year Concept Maps for Interactive Notebooks
If you download the editable Publisher file, you will need to also download these free fonts: Desyrel and Alpha Echo.
Examples of Past Concept Maps
These concept maps were originally shared in a blog post on May 7, 2014.
To be honest, the concept maps at the beginning of the school year were extremely depressing. I need to dig them back out of my filing cabinet and take pictures so you can see the difference a year makes!
As I went through the concept maps, a few things caught my eye. And, I think they require reflection. Since I blog about everything else, I thought I would blog my reflections, too.
These take 10 minutes twice a year to do. They help me reflect on my teaching and my students’ learning. It’s TIME WELL SPENT.
(You have been forewarned – this is probably my longest post ever!)
Reflections begin now!
Songs help students remember! I tried several songs to help students with memorizing the quadratic formula. But, nothing beats Pop Goes The Weasel!
And, no matter how hard I try, I can’t get my students to remember the proper names for the conic sections. Hyperbole. Eclipse. Oh my…
I think this might be one of my favorite concept maps.
Algebra -> Thinking -> Hard Work -> Keep Trying -> Try Again -> SUCCESS
Last year, my Algebra 2 students had a terrible time remembering that solution, root, zero, and x-intercept all meant the exact same thing. This year, I was a teacher with a mission. I introduced those words in Unit 1, and we practiced them ALL year long! By the end of the year, I could ask “What words mean the same thing as x-intercept?” And, the entire class could rattle them off without breaking a sweat. I saw these show up in multiple concept maps.
My students memorize and learn what I emphasize. This summer, I need to really reflect on what I am emphasizing. This will impact what my students learn.
Next year, our first algebra lesson is going to be on how to spell algebra!
This concept map is by a student who struggled. A lot. And, she didn’t seek out help. I don’t quite know how to help students who don’t want my help.
The more I teach, the more I learn to let my personality shine through all that I do in my classroom. This means taking time to let kids see who I am outside the classroom. And, I’m learning to take time to see who kids are outside my classroom. One of the ways I’ve done that this year is through Good Things Mondays, Wacky Wednesdays, and Funny Fridays. I like that this student recognized this in her concept map!
Slope Dude also got a mention. But, that’s no surprise. It’s still my most favorite video to show in class!
I try to make algebra as fun as possible. Some days are more fun than others. It feels good for a student to recognize this fact. Of course, I’m sure a lot of students would disagree.
Notes are important!!!! Yes!
I also adopted a new policy part way through the year. No work. No grade. If you’re going to copy off your neighbor, at least copy all of their work. Maybe you’ll learn something in the process. Nothing drives me crazier than a worksheet on adding and subtracting rational expressions that has only answers. I started giving students a zero on the assignment until they could produce the work that went with it.
Cruel? Maybe. In their best interest? Yes. Led to students asking for help? YES! And, that’s my goal. Students need to recognize that they need help, and then students need to seek it out.
Algebra II = Confusing Math
My goal next year? Make the course more cohesive. I think it would be less confusing for students if I designed the course in such a way that the units fit together and flowed from one to another.
Algebra is sometimes confusing. Yes, yes it is.
Algebra requires thinking. ABSOLUTELY! I have done my job!
This student says that Algebra 2 is hard, boring, not easy, confusing, and something they don’t want to do. But, they also admit that there is “a lot of thinking” involved. Thinking happens in my classroom. Students may not like it, and that’s okay.
Hardest Class Ever. Boring. Complicated. Can’t understand it. Not as fun. Hard.
Every teacher’s favorite question: When are we going to use this?
Teamwork. It’s okay sometimes.
This is a start. This is a student who hasn’t been successful with math in the past. So, for them to admit that it’s okay sometimes is a major leap forward.
Sometimes. I see this word quite a bit on these maps. I take this to mean that my class has challenged students’ preconceptions of what math class will be like.
“Sometimes fun” means that they may have never viewed math as fun before.
“Sometimes irritating” means that they may have always viewed math as irritating before.
Algebra 2 means learning a lot of words. Yes, vocabulary was one of my areas of emphasis this year.
I’m hoping that “zero fun” is meant as homage to Slope Dude and not a description of my class. 🙂
Classroom management is a real struggle for me. This year, my management has improved. But, that has meant that my management has been inconsistent. I let students get away with so many things during the first semester. And, I toughened up the second semester.
Remember my cell phone policy? Can’t talk at all. Can’t plan on your phone. Or Ms. Hagan will take it away I know. This student learned the hard way!
This student reflected on their previous and future mathematical plans which I found quite interesting. They hated Algebra 1. They surprisingly enjoyed Algebra 2. (YAY!) And, they won’t be taking Calculus. In a way, this breaks my heart. Should every student take calculus? Definitely not. But, I teach in a district where most students think calculus is something they would never be capable of taking. I’m slowly working on changing that. But, it’s a much longer journey than I anticipated.
Some areas of some concept maps weren’t quite as focused on Algebra as I had anticipated. But, I love learning new things about my students.
Algebra II = “Favorite Educational Class” I’ll take that!
“Hateful calculators.” This student absolutely refused to solve problems with a graphing calculator. He was continually asking me how to solve a problem without the calculator. When time allowed, I gladly explained the process. I applaud his curiosity. I wish I had more students with a desire to learn multiple methods of solving a problem!
“Paper wasted. Glue lost.” I’m assuming he was also not a fan of the interactive notebooks.
“Learned a lot o’ math.” Yes!
“A long journey completed.” “Hours of sleep lost.” Some of my students needed to lose a few more hours of sleep so they could actually complete their homework…
Slope Dude strikes again! I made my students always pronounce “undefined” as if they were skiing off a cliff. “Undefiiiiiined”!
And, the circle that says “fun” may not be very large, but I’m happy to see it there!
Apparently, Algebra “sukkz.”
I’m really hoping that “EOI’z wur hard” was an intentional misspelling. They also noted that they were often ineligible in my class.
Algebra – the study of “invisible numbers.” I’m pretty sure they meant imaginary numbers. Must work more on vocab next year!
Colorful writing. Songs. Notes. Graphing Calculators.
I hate how many times EOI shows up in these concept maps. But, I guess that’s my fault. Our students focus on what we emphasize. From the beginning of the year, I told my students that they had to pass their EOI. In Oklahoma, students are required to pass an EOI in Algebra 1, English 2, and two other subjects in order to be eligible to receive a diploma. Each school is graded based on how students perform on these tests.
Can we just please do away with high stakes testing so I can get back to focusing on math and problem solving strategies and higher level thinking skills instead of test prep?
Long division is time consuming and surprisingly easy.
EOI -> passed -> happy feelings
Notes = Study Objects
Words cannot express how much I love reading that!
Let’s just say we learned a lot of stuff in Algebra 2 this year!
This map wasn’t as large as some, but I adore it. First off, they drew their own mapping diagram of a function. This student made the highest score in the school on the Algebra 1 test. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that produced the most educational concept map of the day.
I love how this student couldn’t remember what the E stood for in PEMDAS, so he described it instead. And, functions are all about inputs and outputs. I call that a win!
Learning. Entertaining. Fun. Irritation. Worksheets. (Okay – not so proud of those last two. I don’t want worksheets to be the thing that my students remember about my class.) Hexahedron. <- My students were super excited about the origami!
Algebra = life. I agree.
People cry. I have made some students cry this year. I don’t think I made this particular student cry, though.
Feelings get hurt. This makes me sad. My classroom should be a positive, happy place.
And, I hate that they wrote sitting on their concept maps. I try to get students out of their seats as much as possible. I need to do a better job of this, though!
Want to know the meaning of life according to one of my students?
People fly. People die. People try. People cry.
This map is depressing. Algebra is useless, a waste of time, meaningless, and dumb.
Math is “hard work” and a “lot of fun.” This one makes me feel better. I shouldn’t take these comments so personally, but I do. As an education student in college, I thought I would reach 100% of my students. No students would slip through the cracks. That’s a fine ideal, but that’s not reality. I can only help students that want to be helped.
Fun Work. Fun Games. Fun Projects. I’m liking the sound of this!
I wouldn’t call myself the best algebra teacher. But, I try.
Thanks for sticking with my reflections this far! Have you ever done concept maps with your students? I’d love to hear about it!