Keeping Myself Organized Each Week

Just a quick post today to share a little organizational tool I am using this year…

I got the idea from Pinterest (not sure who it originated from) to assign myself different tasks for different days of the week.  I also can be a pretty forgetful person at times, especially after a long day of work, so I needed a way to help myself remember all the little things I need to do (like turn off the air conditioning at the end of the day).  I have combined those two ideas into one weekly to do list.  🙂

Math-in-the-Middle.com| Weekly To Do List

I broke up my days into 3 times that I have free time: before school, at recess, and after school.  (I didn’t include my prep periods because I like keeping them flexible and using them in the best way I see fit at the time.)

I started by listing all the things I need to do on a daily basis: listing my objectives on the board, posting homework online, saving & sharing my notes with my students through Google Drive, sending make-up homework assignments to students who fill out my homework accountability form, cleaning off my desk, and checking the air conditioner and windows to make sure they are off and closed.

Then I took the tasks that I do one or two times a week and assigned them to specific days:

  • Update online gradebook: Mondays & Thursdays
  • Write lesson plans for the following week: Mondays (then update them on Fridays if I am “off” my schedule)
  • Make copies for the following week: Tuesdays (I’ll gather the papers on Mondays after writing my lesson plans so they are all ready to go)
  • Write “do nows” on Socrative for the following week: Tuesdays
  • Grade papers: Wednesdays & Thursdays (I am sure I will use my prep periods to grade other days, as well)

I assigned some of those tasks for mornings and some for afternoons.

The part I am most excited about is that I set up my weekly list to have room for sticky notes (1.5 x 2 inch size).  So, I will only print this list once for the year and any time something pops up that I need to take care of, I will stick a note on to remind me when to do it.  I often have students come in for help or to make up absent work during recess or before/after school, so I can just write it on a sticky note and attach it to this page so that I remember who is coming and when.

If you want to try something similar, you can download the editable PowerPoint (pptx) file by clicking the image below:

weekly to do

Thanks for reading,

Christina

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Free Banner of the Standards of Mathematical Practice

After I shared a bunch of classroom décor ideas in this post, I ended up making another decoration for my classroom: a banner of the standards of mathematical practice.

math practice standards pennant

It’s a simple black & white design that I printed on colored paper to make it pop and match the other bright colors in my room.  However, I was also thinking it could be cool to print it on white paper and have students work in groups to color the banners & add pictures to them to illustrate the meaning of each standard.  (I might do that next year – this year I’m just going to hang up the colorful version, after I reprint it – my printer is having issues right now causing everything to have streaks 🙁 )

You can download the banner FREE from my Teachers pay Teachers store!  While you’re there be sure to look around at some of the great deals today and tomorrow (August 1st & 2nd) during the big annual Back to School sale!  Everything in my store is 28% off with code BestYear.

Click the picture below to download the banner:

math practice banner cover

Some of the resources from my store that I would recommend checking out this back to school season include:

Capture

Capture2

Capture4

 

Happy shopping!

Thanks for reading,

Christina

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Idea for a New Classroom Management Plan

Ever since I made my Homework Accountability Form, I have been thinking of a way to use Google Drive for behavior management.   I am still not 100% sure about my new classroom management plan but figured I’d post it here to hopefully get some good feedback on it and then decide from there if I want to use it, tweak it, or go a completely different direction….

So here it is:

I am thinking of setting up a google sheet for each student I teach before school starts.  It will take a bit of time since I teach over 100 students, but once I set them up, any additional time on this will be minimal.  The sheet will list the most common behavior infractions I encounter and also an “other” category.  (Right now I am thinking of using “off task”, “disruptive”, “out of seat”, and “calling out” in addition to “other”.)  I plan to share the sheet with the student (set to “can view” so that they can see it but can’t edit it 🙂 ) and also share the link with their parents (probably include it in my introductory email).

behavior tracker google

I also made a weekly class behavior tracker form that I am going to print out each week for each class.  On it, I have codes for each of the behaviors that are included on the sheet.   I will keep the class behavior tracker handy on a clipboard along with some extra paper in case I need to write additional notes/reminders to myself.  My plan is to give students a warning the first time they commit an infraction.  When I warn them, I will make a diagonal mark on my clipboard tracker to indicate that they were warned.  (The warning might be in the form of a “look” or a simple reminder to get back on task).  If they commit the same infraction in the class period, I will then make a diagonal mark in the opposite direction to turn it into an “x”.  (If you would like to use a similar form, you can download it as an editable PowerPoint file here.)  I am planning to transfer the forms to a binder after each week so that I can refer back to them at a later date if necessary.

img_20160722_153743.jpg

At the end of the day I will look back on my class behavior trackers for each class to see which students got an “x” (meaning that they did not heed the warning they were given).  I will then go into that student’s Google Sheet and write the date (and a description if it is in the “other” category).  That counts as one mark on their tracker sheet.  When they get to 5 marks or more on their sheet, they will need to serve a detention.

pic of google drive student behavior tracker

I will start over with a new sheet each marking period to give students the chance to start with a blank slate.

Like I said, I am still not 100% sold on this idea but here are my thoughts (positive and negative) about it:

  • It’s a really easy way to keep parents informed.  Once I give them the link (and explain the process to them), they have the ability to check up on their children’s behavior anytime and get instant feedback on whether or not their child is doing what they are supposed to be doing in class
  • After the initial setup it should be really easy to maintain.  It’s a matter of making a mark or 2 in class and then writing the date at the end of the day if anyone got an “x”.  Shouldn’t take more than 2 minutes.
  • It would be really easy to use with a team, as well.  You can share it will all of the teachers in your team so that they can all edit it, and then just assign each teacher a different color or have them write their name in addition to the date any time they make a mark on a student’s tracker.
  • I like that I first give students a warning, before their tracker gets a mark, to give them a chance to change their behavior.  I also like that they get multiple chances before getting a detention – although I don’t know if 5 is too many chances, not enough, or just right…
  • I don’t know how I feel about the fact that technically this system would allow a student to be warned 5 times for 5 different behavior infractions without getting a mark on their sheet….is that fair?
  • I also don’t currently have a plan for what to do if a student gets an “x” and then does the same thing again (a 3rd time) that class period.

Bottom line is: I am torn about this idea…in some ways I feel like it could be very effective and at the same time I still have some doubts and questions.  I would definitely welcome any thoughts or suggestions in the comments!

(Click here to make a copy of the Google Sheet if you want to modify it to work for you.)

Thanks for reading,

Christina

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Decorating the Secondary Math Classroom

I won’t actually be able to get into my classroom for a few more weeks but I figured I’d share my plans for classroom decorations now…

math-in-the-middle.com decorating the math classroom

Every year I do the same “theme” if you can even call it that – black bulletin boards with bright pops of color.  I’m a creature of habit so this year’s “theme” will be no different :-).  I do, however, have some new decorations to add to my room this year that I’m pretty excited about…and I have spent only around $15 on it all!

  •  I made a “Mathematicians” acrostic poster that lists some of the mathematical process standards as well as other traits/skills students use in math.  I didn’t want to spend alot on printing, so I looked around and found shortrunposters.com.  I got it printed in 18×24 with 1.5 MIL Glossy Lamination for just $6 plus around $4 for shipping!  It took about a week to get the poster after ordering and it came out awesome – I couldn’t be happier with the quality (or price)!!  If you are interested in purchasing the poster to print yourself or have printed professionally you can buy it from my TpT store for $1.25.  (The download includes the black background version I printed and a white background version of the poster).  Click the picture below to buy the poster.
  • img_20160719_131802.jpg Comics: Most years I hang up some corny math “funnies” in my room.  They are a great source of FREE decorations for the classroom.  This year I am tying them in with my black & brights by printing them out in black & white, mounting them on different brightly colored papers, and putting black construction paper “shadows” behind each one.  I think that will really help tie them into the room decor better this year.  (If you need a good source of math jokes, comics, and puns, you may want to check out my Math/School Humor Pinterest Board – I have well over 100 pins to choose from!)

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  • Target Dollar Spot finds:  I LOVE the dollar spot in Target!!  This year I found some fun bright colorful decorations that will go perfectly in my room!  I got a pack of punch out signs/pictures for $1 that included a welcome sign and some motivational quotes that I will put up.  I also found cute packs of colorful pennants.  (24 per pack, $1 each – I bought 2 so that I’d definitely have enough).  I am writing the names of all of my homeroom students on them and will then punch holes in them, string them, and hang around the room.  The best part is they are dry erase so I can use them year after year! (Not bad for $2!)

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  • I also found cute bulletin borders at the target dollar spot that match the little pennants.  They were packs of 15 for $1, which is great…but I made it an even better deal by cutting them in half lengthwise to make 30 skinny border strips per pack!
  • img_20160719_131420.jpg I wrote about my ABCs of Algebra Math Alphabet last year… It was a big hit so I made a couple of new versions of the math alphabet this year – the ABCs of Middle School Math and the ABCs of Geometry.  Each one has the same fun, bright design and features a vocabulary word for each letter of the alphabet.  I am planning to hang the middle school version this year in my room.  I will be hanging it above my chalkboard on black paper.  I am using the skinny borders I made as the border around the alphabet.

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You can buy my math alphabet sets in my TpT store for $4 each and print them at home for free – I kept the backgrounds white to make them printer friendly.  Click the pictures below to purchase!

abcs alg    abcs geom    abcs mid

I will have a better idea of what, if anything, else I need for my classroom once I get in to look at what I have.  I hope this gave you some budget-friendly ideas for your room! 🙂

 

Thanks for reading,

Christina

 

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Organizing Student Notebooks with Dividers

Today I’m sharing my newest step towards improved organization in the classroom: notebook divider tabs.  (I got the idea from a blog post by Sarah Carter and knew that I wanted to modify them to work for me in the upcoming year).

Notebook Divider Tabs: math-in-the-middle.com

I decided that this year I am going to make notes worth 2 points per day.  Students need to include a summary/explanation and completed worked-out examples for each lesson (which is where the 2 points are coming from).  In the past I made notes worth 20 points per unit, but in reflecting on it, it doesn’t really make sense because some units are 10 lessons long while others are only 6.  I collect and grade notebooks on days that students are taking the unit test.

So, here’s where the divider tabs come in…before each unit I will give students a divider to glue in their notebooks.  A little tab sticks out the side with the name of the unit on it.  On the divider I listed all of the lessons that are included in the unit.  I figure that will be an easy way for students to make sure that they aren’t missing the notes to any lessons (which will be especially useful for students who were absent).  It will also serve as a checklist for me while I’m grading.  Next to each lesson I can write 0, 1, or 2 for however many points students earned for that day’s notes and record their final grade for the unit on the bottom where I left a space for it.

Notebook Divider math-in-the-middle.com

The beauty of the tabs is that I can flip right to the correct unit without wasting time trying to find their notes.  I also think they will be useful to students, as if I ask them to refer back to an earlier topic, they should be able to find the lesson pretty quickly.

I made the dividers small enough that they won’t waste a page of the students’ notebooks.  I think I will have students write the vocabulary for the chapter on the first page (next to the divider) and then start with the first lesson’s notes on the back of that page.  The divider doesn’t cut into any of the useable space on the back of the page at all, which I am really happy about since I hate wasting paper!

imag0610_1.jpg  imag0615.jpg

I made my dividers print 3 per page, so I just print them, cut on the two dotted lines, and hand them out to the students.  They fold on the solid line and then put glue on each side and make sure to leave the tab sticking out the side of the notebook when they glue it in, and that’s it!

If you’d like to try out similar dividers for your class, I set up a 3 per page divider template in PowerPoint that you can use.  Just click the image below to download the editable pptx file.

imag0619_1.jpg

Other school-related things I have been thinking about/working on recently:

Have you used dividers before with your class?  Are you thinking about trying them out this year?  Please share in the comments below – especially if you have any tips for using them since this will be my first attempt!

Thanks for reading,

Christina

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Holding Students Accountable for Homework

Today I thought I’d share my new homework policy for next year which I’m pretty excited about!

My homework assignments are worth 2 points each and I grade them only for completion.  While students work on their do now problems on Socrative I walk around and record grades for each student.  In the past I’ve given out 2’s, 1’s, and 0’s.  Next year I decided to get rid of 1’s, so students will get a 2 if they attempted every problem AND showed their work.  If they didn’t do the homework, only did half of it, or didn’t show their work they get a 0.  After students finish their do nows we go over homework answers as a class and then I answer any questions about the homework.  Most of the time I don’t spend more than 10 minutes on this entire process, including the do nows, so that I have 30 minutes for my new lesson.  (You can read about & download my homework grade recording sheet here).

In the past I haven’t accepted late homework because we go over the answers in class so it seemed too easy for a student to ‘borrow’ a classmate’s assignment for their late work.  Next year I decided that I will accept late homework, but it will be a separate (but similar) assignment to the original homework assignment.

So…here’s the part I’m excited about.  I created a ‘Homework Accountability” Google form to hold students more accountable for their work.  While I’m walking around checking for completion, students who get a 0 need to fill out the form, which I will keep a link to in my Google Classroom for easy access.  The form is pretty simple: they will fill out their name, their reason for getting a 0, and either check off that they want to complete a make-up assignment or that they are accepting the 0.  Since all students are on their chromebooks at that time working on their do nows it will not be disruptive to have them fill out the form, nor will it be embarrassing for the student.

Math-in-the-middle.com| Homework Accountability Form

Here’s the link if you want to make a copy of my form and edit it for your own classroom.

At the end of the day I will check responses to the form and email/share make-up assignments with the students who requested them.  All make-up work must be handed in by the unit test day.  I will not accept make-up work after that point since the idea is that completing the homework should help prepare students for the test.

I will give students full credit on the first 2 make-up assignments they complete in a marking period, but they can only earn 1/2 on any additional make-up work they complete, to hopefully discourage students from taking advantage of the system.  While it will require a little bit more work for me to come up with make-up assignments it isn’t a huge deal.  When I write my lesson plans each week I will simply come up with a 2nd homework assignment each night so that I’m prepared.

I am excited to try this out because it gives students a chance to explain their reason for missing an assignment (without wasting class time on excuses), gives them a chance to make up for it, and gives them responsibility as they will not have the opportunity to make up an assignment unless they fill out the form and ask for one.  I also have documentation from the student that can be shared with parents, should a pattern form that needs to be addressed.  (I still plan to record student grades each day on my own record sheets, as well, so I am not relying solely on students filling out the form, but they won’t be able to make it up unless they fill out the form).

(If you missed my post on a free homework poster you can download, listing the requirements for an acceptable homework assignment, you can find it here.)

What are your thoughts on this homework policy?

Thanks for reading,

Christina

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Getting Organized with Google Drive

In my last post I shared with you my process for writing long-term plans and I shared my scope & sequence for Algebra I.  (Click here to read that post if you missed it!)  Today I thought I would share my long term plans for my other classes (7th grade math, 7th grade Pre-Algebra, and 8th grade math),  as well as my next step in the planning process – setting up Google Drive.

Click below to download my scopes & sequences.  (They are editable word docs).

7th Grade Scope & Sequence

Pre-Algebra Scope & Sequence

8th Grade Scope & Sequence

As I said in my last post, my next step after writing my plans was to set up Pinterest boards for each unit in each class to store any ideas I find online that I don’t want to forget.  (So far I have boards set up for each of my Algebra and Pre-Algebra units, which you can check out here).

The next thing I am doing is setting up folders in my Google Drive.

google drive organization

I am terrible with physical file cabinets – mine is literally just filled with junk and stacks of extra copies, etc. and is not organized in the least.  That’s why using Google Drive works so well for me!   Google Drive has been great in helping me be more organized but in the past I haven’t used it to its full potential.  I truly believe that folders and sub-folders are the key to making the most of this awesome organizational tool!

For the coming school year I started by making a main folder for each class I teach:

google drive

Within each folder I put general class information and am in the process of creating sub folders for each unit.  (So far I only have the first two units done).

class gdrive

I am putting any and all resources I might need for the unit in each unit sub-folder, so to keep them manageable,  I plan to put sub folders within each unit folder for each lesson.  So in my Unit 1 Algebra Basics folder I will have a folder for Adding & Subtracting Rational Numbers, Multiplying & Dividing Rational Numbers, Writing & Evaluating Expressions, etc…  One folder for each lesson within the unit.  Within each of those folders I will put the classwork, task cards, worksheets, homework assignments, etc. that I am using for that lesson.  Then everything is in one place and easy to find.

Seems like such a simple idea (and it is!) but for some reason I never thought to actually organize my Drive the same way I organize my lesson plans.

While my plan is to try to fill my unit folders as much as possible ahead of time, I will also add to them throughout the year as I determine what resources I am using for each lesson.  The nice thing about that is that once it’s done I will have it ready to go for future years, as well!

The other nice thing about using Google Drive as opposed to a physical filing cabinet is that I can use the search bar at the top to type in what I am looking for in case I can’t remember the name of it or what folder I put it in.  It makes it soo easy to find what I am looking for, which is exactly what someone who is not naturally organized (like me!) needs!!

Do you have any tips for organizing school materials or using Google Drive?  Feel free to share by leaving a comment!  (I believe I finally got the comments working again after they had been broken for months!  yay!)

Thanks for reading,

Christina

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Long-Term Planning (Algebra I)

I personally believe that it’s a good idea to start thinking ahead to the next school year around this time of year.  I admit that I don’t normally start planning until August but this year I am getting a head start because I believe it will allow me to be much less stressed come September.

If you are looking to start planning out your year and have no idea where to start (which was me a couple of weeks ago before I just jumped in), I’ll share my process for long-term planning.  The first class I worked on was Algebra I, so I’ll share that one today.

long term planning blog pic

Step 1:  Look over everything you need to teach and break it up into units.  I try to use as few units as possible while keeping each one a manageable size.  For Algebra I, I came up with 11 different units.

Step 2:  Determine the order in which you want to teach those units.  This can be tricky because you need to make sure that students have all the prerequisite skills for each unit and you want the year to have a good flow.

Step 3:  Determine all of the different lessons that will be included in each unit and the order in which you want to teach them.  This is the most time-consuming part, in my opinion, but it will save you a lot of time throughout the year if you get the whole year figured out before school starts.

Step 4:  Determine an approximate length of time it will take you to teach each unit.  Since my Algebra I class is an advanced class for 8th graders, I am able to move fairly quickly.  Therefore, I normally plan to teach a lesson a day.  I plan on 2 days for topics that I know students will find challenging.  I add 3 days to the end of a unit since I typically spend 2 days on review and 1 day for the unit test.

Here is my long-term plan (scope & sequence/curriculum map) for Algebra I.  Feel free to download it and edit/adjust it to meet your needs.

algebra scope

The next thing I did is something I should have done long ago…I organized my Pinterest boards.  I love getting ideas on Pinterest but I previously put all the great teaching ideas I found on my “Math Teaching Ideas” board…and then forgot all about them.  So I setup a separate Pinterest board for each Algebra I unit and moved pins from my (useless) “math teaching ideas” board onto the appropriate boards.  Now when I see great Algebra ideas on pinterest or read about them on blogs, I pin them onto the board that corresponds to that unit.  I forsee this being very valuable when I am actually writing my lesson plans throughout the years – I can glance through the unit Pinterest board to remind myself of all the great ideas I want to implement.

Click the picture below if you want to check out my Algebra I Units Pinterest Boards:

pinterest

Step 5: (I won’t get around to this step until closer to the start of the year when I have my schedule…)  Translate your estimated time frames into calendar dates.  I have a blank school year calendar that is weekdays only.  I write in school holidays/half days, etc. and then write in my approximate start dates for each unit based off the estimated time frames I came up with.  I then adjust as necessary around long breaks like Christmas and Easter.

You can download my calendar FREE from my TpT store by clicking the image below:

calendar pic1

There you have it…my process for writing  long-term plans.  I have had years when I haven’t done detailed year-long plans and years when I have done them and I can say from experience that it really does pay off to do them because it helps you have a smoother, less stressful school year when you have a map to follow.

Do you have any tips or tricks for planning out a school year?  Please feel free to leave a comment sharing your ideas!

Thanks for reading,

Christina

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Planning Ahead for Next Year (and a Free Poster!)

I’m trying something new this year…I’m planning ahead! 🙂  I typically don’t even start thinking about the next school year until August (school starts for me in September), but my goal this year is to have my year pretty much figured out BEFORE August so that I can relax and enjoy my last month of Summer.  I know I will still have things to do in August like setting up my classroom, but I am hoping to have as much done by then as possible.

So far I have brainstormed some classroom policy ideas that I want to change next year, which I will write about in future blog posts, and I have started writing out my curriculum maps/scope and sequences for each of my classes.  To keep me motivated I am breaking up the more “serious” planning with some fun projects for my classroom that I enjoy doing, like making posters & decorations.

Here is the first poster I made for my classroom that you can download FREE from my TpT store!  I made it because I am tired of having students show me “completed” homework that is NOT up to my standards and having them look at me blankly when I tell them it needs to be redone….so I thought it would be helpful to post the components of an acceptable homework assignment.

hw poster

In my next blog post I’ll start sharing my curriculum maps and other plans for the year!

Thanks for reading,

Christina

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Parent-Teacher Communication: Getting Off On The Right Foot

parent teacher communication

I take some time every year (usually around the second week of school) to send emails to the parents/guardians of all of my students.  It’s a good way to open the lines of communication on a positive note.  I don’t write lengthy notes, basically just a quick hello; something similar to this:

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Parent,

Hello!  I’m Mrs. Teacher, your child’s math teacher this year.  I wanted to take the opportunity to introduce myself and let you know that I am enjoying having Betty Sue in my class.  (I write something personal about that student here, like “I am very pleased with her class participation already!”). I look forward to a wonderful year with her!

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns you may have throughout the year.  I can be reached by email at email@email.com, or by calling the school at 555-5555.

I look forward to working with you this school year to help make Betty Sue’s 7th grade year a great one!

Thanks,
Mrs. Teacher

The notes are always well-received by parents, so while they are a little time-consuming, I think they are definitely worth it!

I’d love to hear how other teachers start their communication with parents each year!

Thanks for reading,
Christina

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