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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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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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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A Creative Approach to Grouping in the Middle School Math Classroom

I am a HUGE fan of group work!  I love having students work together in my math classes for practice work, problem solving, review games, etc.  Occasionally I allow my students to pick their own groups, but more often than not I assign them because:

  • No students are ever left out or the last one picked when I assign them
  • I can make sure the groups are either mixed ability levels or homogenous (whatever I need for a particular class period)

I pick new groups every time we do group work because I think it’s important for the students to be able to work successfully with different people and I don’t want students “stuck” with the same people every time.  I have done different things in the past to pick random groups such as having the students count off or handing them playing cards as they walk in the room.  I also have deliberately placed students in groups.  But I was looking for a way to mix things up…

…so I have come up with the following solution:  As the students come into the classroom I will hand them a card with a math problem they need to solve (relating to what they are learning).  This problem will be in place of the typical do now problems I give them on Socrative.  Once they solve the problem, they will need to find the table labeled with the answer to their card, and sit there.  (3 other students’ cards will have that same answer), so those 4 students will be a group for the day.   (I will be walking around to assist any students who struggle with their problem).

math-in-the-middle.com|matching task cards for grouping pic1

I am pretty excited to try this and can think of a bunch of different ways to change this up.  I could have the groups be completely random by just giving each student a random card, or I can make the “random” groups fit my needs based on ability level (without the students even realizing it) by grouping the cards based on difficulty level and giving each student a card from the group that is appropriate for them.  [If I want mixed ability level groups, the 4 cards with matching answers will be 4 different difficulty levels;  If I want homogenous groups, the 4 cards with matching answers will be the same difficulty level.]

Obviously this will require a bit of prep time in advance (since I have to come up with the questions), but I plan to laminate the cards and use them every year.  I can also re-use them as a card-sorting center activity, as task cards, game cards, etc., so I think that it is worth the initial time investment.  (There are soo many different ways that I can use and re-use the cards!!)

I made my first set of these cards on one-step equations and have them set up to create mixed-ability level groups.  I color coded the cards by difficulty level – yellow include only whole numbers, blue include integers, green include fractions, and red include decimals.  As the students walk in the class, I will give the students who struggle with one-step equations yellow cards, and the students who need more of a challenge green or red.  The groups will end up with one of each color card, giving me random, but “equal” mixed-ability level groups.

math-in-the-middle.com| matching task cards for grouping pic2

You can grab this set of 32 matching task cards (to form up to 8 groups of 4) on one-step equations FREE by clicking the download links below.  (I included the color-coded cards and the same cards in black and white…feel free to download and use whichever version you prefer).

match task cards bw

Click the picture above to download the 32 matching cards in black & white (FREE)

match task cards color

Click the picture above to download the 32 matching cards in color (FREE)

Do you have any other ideas of how to use these matching cards?  Please leave me a comment with your thoughts!!

Thanks for reading,

Christina

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