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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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!)

img_20160719_131623.jpg

  • 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.

img_20160719_131450.jpg

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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Ideas for Setting Up Math Notebooks

With all the buzz on interactive notebooks lately, I thought I’d share how I do notebooks in my math classes for people who are looking for an alternative to cutting and pasting foldables into a notebook.

ideas for setting up math notebooks

I have gone back and forth a few times between having my students use binders or notebooks, but for the past few years I have gone with 3-subject spiral notebooks.  They are a good size and I like that they have built-in dividers with pockets and the fact that pages can be neatly torn out when needed thanks to the perforation.

The front section of the 3-subject notebook is used for notes.  The middle section is for classwork and homework.  The back section is used for scrap paper or looseleaf if I want something torn out and handed in.  I like to set it up this way so that the front section is a nice, organized resource they can use to refresh their memory on how to do something without having to root through pages of work.  (It also makes checking their notes easier when they are all in one place)!   I also like the fact that the students are not staring at their notes when they go to do their classwork or homework, so they can try the problems on their own, but they can easily flip back if they need to reference the notes.

Taking notes in my class is mandatory.  Each day (in the “notes” section of the notebook), students are required to (1) title the notes with the day’s topic, (2) write the date, (3) write a summary/explanation of how to do the day’s lesson, and (4) give an example, solved correctly and showing all work. Here is a sample of what I expect in a day’s notes for a lesson on subtracting decimals:

math notes example

I collect notebooks on chapter test days and grade the “notes” section while my students are taking the test.  I collect on test days so that students make sure they have all their notes in order (and hopefully look them over) before taking the test and because they obviously don’t need their notebooks while they are taking the test.  Notes are worth 20 points per chapter and I grade them using the following rubric:

pic of rubric

Click here for the pdf version of my notebook rubric

Click here for the editable version.

Most of my students are pretty good about taking good notes since it is a big part of their grade.  They know that simply taking good notes each day in class is an easy way to get a 20/20 averaged into their grade each chapter, which is a good motivator for most students!

For classified students with special note-taking requirements in their IEP’s, I provide guided notes on which they basically just need to fill in the blanks, but the guided notes I give are in the same general format with both explanations and examples each day.  I also save the notes I write on my interactive whiteboard each day and share them with my classified students on Google Drive.  That way if they weren’t able to finish filling in their note sheets in class, they can fill them in at a later time.

I am in the process of typing up my guided notes and making them a little nicer.  (As I complete sets, I am putting them in my TpT store along with practice sheets and application sheets that correspond to the lessons).  You can grab my set of notes, practice sheets, and application sheets on simplifying algebraic expressions free for the next few days!  Click  the image below to get this set while it’s free!

simplifying expressions pack pic1

How do you handle note-taking in your math class?  I would love to hear ideas from other teachers!

Thanks for reading,

Christina

 

(Also, all paid items in my TpT store are on sale today, August 19th for 28% off with code MORE15)!!

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Tips for an Organized Dismissal Time

Organization has never been my strength as a teacher…(it’s a rare day when my desk isn’t covered in papers)…but every year I get a little bit better about it.  It only took me 6 years to get my dismissal routine organized in a way I am happy with! 

I’m not sure how dismissal works at other schools but at my school students are dismissed from homeroom one bus at a time (always in the same order), then car riders, then extended day students, and then clubs.  I’m responsible for making sure my homeroom students leave the classroom at the appropriate time.

I always take a couple of minutes on the first day to ask students how they typically go home (which bus they are on, if they are a car rider or walker, etc.)  I record this information on the following chart, which I keep in my teacher binder.   (You can download it free by clicking the picture below).

student transportation

Students are required to bring in notes if they are going home a different way on any given day, so I get a bunch of notes each day.  This is where my organization fell apart…until I figured out the following system a couple of years ago:

  • I make a typical dismissal list on the left side of a piece of paper.  I list each bus in the order they are called, car riders, and extended day.  Under each one, I list the students who typically go home that way.
  • I title the right side of the paper “changes” and leave it blank.
  • I have an awesome 2-pocket folder with a clear-view cover that I got from Staples a few years ago.  I slide my Dismissal sheet in the cover spot of that folder.
  • When I collect change of dismissal notes in the morning I write the changes on the cover with a dry-erase marker.  If the note applies to more than just one day (i.e. “Susie will be car rider today and tomorrow”) I stick the note in one of the pockets in the folder so I have it for the next day.
  • I keep a monthly calendar of after school clubs/activities in the other pocket, along with a list of who in my class is in each club.  If I have students going to a club one day, I record that on my “changes” list for the day, as well.
Organized Dismissal Folder Dry Erase Changes| Math in the Middle Blog

Cover of my Dismissal Folder

 

Organized Dismissal Folder Dry Erase Changes| Math in the Middle Blog

Inside of my Dismissal Folder

At the end of the day, I grab my folder and am ready to monitor dismissal and make sure everyone is leaving when they should be.  I simply wipe off the changes each day and write the new changes…simple and effective!

You can download the FREE monthly calendar (weekdays only) I use to record after-school activities by clicking the picture below.

 calendar

 Thanks for reading,

Christina

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