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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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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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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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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Assignment Checklists

Happy Labor Day!  Tomorrow is my first day back at school so I figured I would write one more summer blog post about how I am getting organized for this school year.

Today’s post is about one of those simple organizational ideas that I probably should have come up with 5 or 6 years ago but didn’t think of until now…

I typically try to wait until everyone in the class has taken a test before I grade it.  I do this because I think it helps me grade fairly.  When I grade them all at once it is much easier for me to be consistent with the amount of partial credit I award for problems.  If, for example, I grade some math tests one day and others a different day I may not remember how many points I took off of Jack’s test for not writing a negative sign so I may take off more points on Sara’s test for the same mistake.

The problem with waiting until everyone has taken a test, though, is that in the past I have been pretty dependent on students reminding me that they still need to take a test when they come back from an absence.  Sometimes I remember who hasn’t taken a test, but with so many other things to worry about I often forget.

So…this year I decided to fix this issue by making simple assignment checklists.  They are basically just a list of all of my students’ names with little check boxes next to them.  I made the checklists small (I fit 5 copies of the checklist on one sheet of paper) so that I wouldn’t waste alot of paper on them.

Assignment Checklist

Assignment Checklist

My plan is to go through my stack of tests the day I administer the test and just make a check mark next to all the students who have taken the test.  I will then paperclip the checklist to the top of the pile of tests so I can look at it real quick and see who still needs to take the test.  It’s a really simple idea (that definitely should not have taken me 7 years to come up with) but I think it will really help with my organization this year!

If you want to print out checklists that you can use for your class, click the picture below to download an editable Microsoft Excel version of them.  I set it up so you can just enter your students names in the first column and they will be copied 4 other times so that you have 5 copies of the checklist per page.  Then you just need to cut apart the 5 lists and you are good to go!  Enjoy!

assignment checklists editable

Wishing you all a wonderful school year (whether you are starting this week, like me, or have already gone back)!

Thanks for reading,

Christina

 

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Making Expectations Clear from the Very Beginning

As pretty much any teacher would say, it can’t be stressed enough just how important it is to set clear expectations for your students from the first day of school.  This includes expectations for behavior and routines in the classroom, as well as academic expectations.

Over the years I have revised the way that I have gone over these academic expectations with students many times.  I am pretty happy with the syllabus I handed out to my students last year and think that I will use something very similar this year since it did work out well for me.  I try to keep it relatively short (my syllabus is one page, front and back) because I figure that most students probably won’t read it if I make it too long.  You can see a copy of my syllabus below:

DSCN1033

In my opinion the purpose of a syllabus is basically to tell your students how they can be successful in your class.  That is why I include on mine how they will be graded, what they need to bring to class, and how they can get extra help if they are struggling.

The best thing about giving students a syllabus on the first day:  not having to deal with “You didn’t tell us….” or “I didn’t know…” comments throughout the year as you can just refer students back to the syllabus where it is all clearly stated.

If you like my syllabus and want to adjust it for your own classroom, click on the image below to download a free editable copy of it:

 free editable syllabus

 

For more first day of school ideas you can use in your math classroom, check out my “Back to School Math Activities for Middle School“!  It includes games I play with my students after going over the syllabus, as well as a good first week problem solving activity/bulletin board display.  It’s typically $5, but grab it today (August 4th) or tomorrow while it’s on sale for 28% off with code BTS14!

b2s pic1

If you have any ideas on how to improve my syllabus or would like to share what you include on yours, please feel free to leave me a comment!

Thanks for reading,

Christina

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Keeping Track of Homework

Organization is probably the thing I struggle with most as a teacher.  My method (or lack thereof) of keeping track of homework is something that I know I need to reorganize this year.

I am happy with my homework policy as a whole, but just need to change the way I keep track of who did or did not complete it.  Here is my homework policy:

I assign homework just about every night in my math classes.  It is worth two points per night.  (I use the point system of grading).  I do not collect the homework or grade it based on correctness.  I grade it based on completion only.  If a student attempts every problem AND shows their work they get 2/2, if they complete about half of it they get 1/2, and if they did not do their homework (or did not show their work) they get 0/2.  I walk around while students work on their “do now” problems and check to see who did it…and that’s where my organization falls apart.

In my old school my math classes were VERY small (they ranged in size from 4 students to 7 students).  At that school, I just kept a list of students who were missing homework assignments.

missing homework assignments list

 

It worked for me in that small setting because I never had more than one or two students not complete their homework on any given night so it took me less than a minute to write the date, student’s name, and missing assignment down.

When I switched schools last year my classes grew considerably…to around 20 students per class.  I learned pretty quickly that in larger classes there are more students who don’t do their homework each night so I didn’t want to take the time to fill out all the info for each student who was missing work as it would take too much time.

So…I ditched my old method and switched to sticking post-it notes in my binder:

missing homework assignments sticky notes

 

I just wrote the date on a sticky note and the initials of all students who were missing homework that day and either 1/2 or 0/2, depending on the grade they earned.  I consulted my sticky notes when I put grades into my computer later, and then threw them out.  This method was definitely quicker than my old one but obviously had some downsides…such as: I didn’t actually write down the assignments the students were missing, just that they were missing an assignment, and the sticky notes would occasionally fall out of my binder.  Bottom line is that it didn’t keep me organized at all.

Soo…this year I am opting to go with the more traditional homework record sheet.  I made one up in Excel. (You can click on the picture below to download the excel file if you are interested)! Click here if you prefer a pdf version of the record sheet.

homework record sheet empty pic

 

I will type in my students’ names once I get my class lists, and across the top I’ll fill in the date and homework assignment each day.  The key is going to be remembering to keep on top of this.  My plan is to fill in the assignment part when I assign the homework the day before so that I don’t need to take too much time to fill out the info when I am checking homework the next day.

I am hoping that it will look like this as I fill it in throughout the year and that I will stay nice and organized (at least as far as homework is concerned this year)!

homework record sheet filled in pic

 

What method have you used that works well for keeping track of missing homework?

Thanks for reading,

Christina

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