Monday, August 31, 2015

Lessons Learned from Self Paced Class

NOTE: I am publishing this as a DRAFT. I just wanted to get it out there for people to find, but I haven't edited it fully at this point. Apologies for typos and lack of clarity in advance.

I've been "self-pacing" my Algebra 1 class for the about the last trimester (I started dabbling at the end of Trimester 2, but it officially started Trimester 3). As I work at a transfer school, attendance is a big struggle, and my period attendance is roughly 20% -- many classes I have less than 10 students, and often only 1-5.

To adjust to everyone being at a separate place in the curriculum, I've used a mix of digital and paper resources. I've built a class website, which I recently re-vamped. The issue I addressed in my re-vamp was ease of navigation. If you are building a website, cannot stress enough how much more user-friendly horizontal navigation bars are, as opposed to vertical lists.

My biggest struggle is getting students motivated, and eager to stay on pace. Here's my reflection on it , and a collection of ideas I have for next year.

1) Trackers
2) Grading
3) Materials
4) Routines

1) Trackers

Students need both PUBLIC and PERSONAL trackers - for both LONG term (Trimester) and SHORT term (Daily) goals. I think this will help keep students motivated, or at the least, clearly informed about where they are and where they are going within the curriculum.

Public (on PPT) Long Term (Outcomes) Tracker --
Student Names Removed 

Daily Goal: Public Tracker

PERSONAL LONG TERM - I did not refer to this enough, but the student syllabus had a place for students to track their scores on weighted assignments. I also aligned IXL skills to each of our outcomes that students could use for more practice.

From the Syllabus

PERSONAL SHORT TERM - I tried a few iterations of this, but I think this is the best I've done so far. I'd like to add a place for students to put their NAME, and a clearly labeled column to mark (check, sticker, or stamp) their progress.
Personal Short Term Goal Tracker

The road to success, a daily goal, a syllabus tracker, an outcome checklist (both class-wide poster size and individual)

2) Grading

Also, next year I will enter all student grades as missing at the beginning of the school year. This way, whenever they (or their parent, or their social worker, or any stakeholder) look at their progress report, they will see ALL the upcoming assignments.

3) Materials to have ready at the start of class: 

- public trackers (long & short term)
- binder of guided notes, organized by outcome, with exemplar filled out Teacher Copy for each 
- multi colored highlighters to connect ideas in guided notes with vocab, graphs, and steps
- whiteboards and markers for practice (I've found these very helpful, I can do a mini-lesson with each student wherever they are, and leave the exemplar/notes with them as they continue to practice, or they can use their own whiteboard to practice on the computer). 

4) Classroom Routines

Entrance Routine for Students
I wish I had split more time between teacher-led and video lessons to break up the pacing. Our periods are 65 minutes, and that's a long time for my students to sustain self-motivation. 

Summer Prep
- Course Outcomes
- Daily Objectives
- Mini Video Lessons for Each Objective
- Guided Notes for each Lesson
- Develop Whole Class Activities, accessible for multiple levels 

Thursday, June 4, 2015


I was just reading and in response to a recent post... 

I used this (image below) to teach an application for multiplying polynomials. 
Maybe showing students the two shapes separately before combining them, giving them the chance to COMPOSE before asking them to DECOMPOSE a composite shape, would help them understand the concept that a figure can be made of many shapes. This could be especially powerful with (colorful) manipulatives - even just from printer paper. 

Maybe you've tried something like this before, but I'm trying to be more active in #MTBoS, and this answer occured to me as I read your blog. Please feel free to respond with any feedback ! 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Word Problems

Literacy is a struggle for many of my students. Breaking down word problems is one of the most difficult tasks. Even when they know the math, they have a hard time understanding when to use what they know.

This is what I've been using, but I haven't been consistent enough to be sure it's really helping.

At the least, it's prompted me to ask -- what do you use to support students who struggle with literacy in math class?? 

By next year, I hope all my students can say "I got 99 problems, but word problems ain't one.." #cornyteacher

Friday, May 29, 2015

Displaying Student Work

I don't do enough of this (see title). But I'm trying.

I used..

  • string, 
  • mini-clothes pins (seriously, they're the size of my fingerprint)
  • two tacks
  • a pile of graded work. 

And today, ta-da!, I made a display. Maybe pictures later. :)

I got the idea from my sister who did the same thing in her classroom. She said administrators always compliment it. I like the idea of being able to display work without ruining it by stapling through it or taping it. It's also going to be really easy to change out work.

Next step.. figure out a good pun to title it with. LOADS of learning? The original Pintrest?

Anyone have ideas out there?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Student First

Just a quick rant. I've noticed a few people -- overheard on the train, people not in education -- saying "special needs students." Probably anyone reading this knows, but please use student first language. The term "student with special needs" puts students first. Humans first.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Google Sites

I attended Eduonair this weekend.

I've been focused on how to organize my google site to be intuitive so that students can easily get started,discover, learn, practice and prove a skill, then flow into the next skill.

My the first takeaway I'm working on incorporating is to switch from a vertical to horizontal nav bar.

If anyone reading has an flipped, blended or other digital classroom that they have a template I might be able to copy or take ideas from.. I would love to see what you've done. FYI, my school is standards based, so if you also have that format, I'd really love to see what you've done!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Standards Based Grading

I've only ever used standards based grading as a teacher, and I don't know how I would go back to the traditional grading I experienced as a student.

Making math classes standards-based seems easier than other content areas, (according to what I hear from co-workers). Our school uses 2 assignments per outcome (our vernacular for "standard"), 10 outcomes per term. Outcomes over the trimesters are numbered 1-30, to remind students that math builds on prior knowledge. Passing a term requires passing 7 outcomes, each with at least 70%.  (Yes, I've done the math and know this means students can pass knowing only 49% of the material. Also, students can pass the state tests with a raw score of 39% in the same course content. Maybe there's too much to cover? I'm torn about this.)

Students understand that if they achieve mastery in an outcome, they know how to do what the outcome says. Each lesson, each exit ticket is printed with the corresponding outcome in the heading. The two weighted assignments are a quiz and project for each outcome. The "project" is often a complex problem, sometimes a packet, and too seldom, a true project. (However, I would like to get students making media for our online classroom, and that's a project idea we could use.)

Monday, May 4, 2015


By blogging and sharing with other professionals in the mathblogosphere (#MTBoS), we can reflect on our own practice and become inspired by the ideas of others.

I'm not quite sure how to get started. But I know it's a good idea.

So here's my math blog. Day 1.