#NoticeWonder in my classroom

So it was at least three years ago that I first saw the video of Annie Fetter’s Ignite talk about the instructional routine, “What do you notice?  What do you wonder?” (I might have even heard about this routine at the summer institute I did with Lucy West’s company, Metamorphosis). I think it was mid year that I began incorporating it into my class, and I remember being pleasantly surprised at how I heard from students who had been silent in class for much of the year. 

Last year, I began the school year with it, using it so much with my co-teachers that Katie and Kathleen would often tease me about it (though we started using it also in our grown up teacher tasks: what do you notice about these student test scores?). This year, I’ve also been using it right from the get go (in fact, it’s like the second thing in my kids’ notebooks and there are at least three or four N/W charts). I often do it in three stages: draft a list independently, share one or two with a partner and add to your list, share out as a whole class and expand or confirm your list with plus signs for new ideas and checks for ideas you also had. 

Last year, I started to run into a problem with my students that arose yesterday (when I began this post!). My students do “ok” (at worst, sometimes much better) with the noticing, but their wonderings are much less specific and mathematical. Sometimes, I think it might be because I’ve chosen to have them notice/wonder about something that’s insufficiently substantial. Other times, I worry it’s because I haven’t done enough modeling or reflecting on our noticings and wondering about what makes a good one. 
Yesterday, I gave my 7th graders a “probability table” to wonder about. It showed the chances of Nina getting a phone call at her work at an office. 

They noticed things like the probability was written in fractions, they summed to 1, the denominators were multiples of 3, and that she typically got fewer phone calls (they didn’t state that they noticed she got between 0 and 4 phone calls).

They wondered who was calling her, why she had so few calls, where she worked, did she have a good phone plan/what was her rate, Samsung or apple, how long were the calls, what her phone number was. Only the question about how long the phone calls were seemed to me that they could be potentially relayed to the probability, but in the moment, I didn’t make any connections. I just recorded all of their observations and questions. 

In class, after we did this activity, I had my kids answer a few questions about some probabilities and they seemed to do pretty well: but I didn’t make any explicit link between the intro activity we did and how that helped them answer the questions (like P (0 calls) = or what was the number she was most likely to get). 

I’m wondering now how to improve upon my use of notice/wonder. I went to an MfA PD tonight about the instructional routine, Contemplate then Calculate that uses the notice part without the wonder in the beginning of the task and it made me wonder if sometimes, we should just use the notice part. 

The other thing I was thinking about is how awesome it is when we’re able to leverage the wonder part to become the questions we investigate, so it seems like we’re delving into what the kids were asking about (but secretly, it was anticipated and aligns with the objective of the day).

I was also reflecting on the way I began tweaking the routine a bit last year at the end to say, “what could you wonder mathematically about this? ” or what questions could this answer or what mathematical questions could we all about this? I’m wondering now if I should try those again this year. 

The other thing (really big picture for a moment) that I realized at tonight’s PD is that there are apparently LOTS of instructional routines to use in class to teach better: WHY didn’t we learn about any of them when I was in grad school? Did other people? If not, there’s something broken with how we’re training teachers (which I already believe, based on my experience in Teachers College).

Anyway, I guess my closing ideas are this:

How do others use Notice/Wonder?

Does the item you choose affect how well students are able to do this? 

How do you model it and teach kids the routine? 

How do you help students get better and improve at the routine? 


Something New for Next Week (Visibly Random Groups)

So I wanted to begin the year with random groups of students, but I realized very quickly that learning names, handing out name tents, and taking attendance would be quite difficult if I had students in a different seat every day. So I began the year with something that’s “somewhat” random – alphabetical by last name. Students certainly weren’t going to question if I had placed the “smart” kids in one section and the “dumb” in another section or anything.

However, now we’ve been in those same seats for almost four weeks, and I think the kids are beginning to get to know each other and I’m beginning to get to know them. In my homeroom, I know ALL of their names and faces (because I ALSO have a 15 minute homeroom period where we’ve done A LOT of ice breaker/name games), and in my other classes, I know about 85 – 90% of the kids.

I’d like to start trying out visibly random groups NEXT WEEK, where I plan to tape a playing card to each desk (A – 8 to represent groups 1 – 8, and the four suits to represent the four positions within each group), and then to hand out a second set of cards to students to assign them their seats for the day. I would collect the cards from them at some point (though I’m not exactly sure when), and I would make it clear to them that the seats would only be for the day.

The major logistical thing I’m CONCERNED about is the way in which I check my HW right now. I have students have it out on their desk and I go around, seating chart in hand, and I write their grade next to their name. I can see three ways of coping with checking HW with the random seats:

  1. Collect HW & check it off after class – NO WAY! I wouldn’t be able to keep up with this. I know from previous experience this doesn’t work for me. I will spot check random HW assignments, but I can’t do this daily!
  2. Have a roster with the students names in alphabetical order and look for them to check off their homework. If I do this, then I will definitely assign them “A#s” (alphabetical numbers) which I’ve done in the past but usually at the end of September, so there are no more changes to my roster.
  3. Have a blank seating chart EVERY DAY, and write the students into the seats they’re in and then check off their HW… This seems like a LOT of extra work, even though it would help me know who’s sitting in which seat.

The other concerns I have about this are if my few “squirrely” students wind up sitting together and being off-task.

Another concern I have about this is that I really want to be teaching using group problem solving tasks (so there’s a reason they move around and work with their group mates), but my current school uses a lot of resources from Engage NY, which don’t seem to be very problem-solving-based, so I’m not sure how to implement the necessity of working together.

I’m also deciding about whether or not I want to assign group roles (perhaps based on seat position within the group – facilitator/navigator, resource manager, recorder and reporter are four that I’ve seen before that I liked).

I’m curious about other people’s experiences rolling out the Visibly Random Groupings with their classes, and what has helped make it more successful.

Student Participation & Engagement

Over my years of teaching, I’ve noticed something that many studies have commented on: in many classrooms, there are only a few students who regularly raise their hands to ask and answer questions, while many more are silent observers.

One solution that is often proffered is the idea of cold calling or randomly calling students instead of taking hands. In this way, the idea is that students will be “ready” at any time to share out their ideas. However, I’ve noticed that this causes resentment and anger sometimes on the part of students, as they don’t like being caught off-guard or being called on for an answer they didn’t feel prepared for or sure of.

Another strategy often suggested is giving them wait time or think time or sometimes even writing time or sharing in pairs time. However, I’ve noticed that this often only increases the number of hands marginally, but students who NEVER participate rarely are encouraged to do so by this method.

So this year, I’m deciding to try something new. I let the first few weeks go by like “normal,” observing which students raise their hands regularly and which students are more quiet. Taking note of which classes have more or fewer active participants and if there’s any correlation with the time of day I see them (i.e. more loud, off-task conversations after lunch vs. more heads down and quiet first period).

Now I’ve got several mental lists of students: students who I can “count on” to raise their hands daily (usually multiple times per day), students who will raise their hand when prompted for “students we haven’t heard from lately,” students who only share short answers or only share rarely, and students have not shared at all. Now I’m considering what to do to target those students and encourage them to participate in the verbal conversation of class.

My two ideas that I want to try this year are the following:

During turn-and-talks, hovering near those students and listening for them to share something that I could ask them to share with the whole class OR during work-time on problem solving or answering questions, observing what they’re thinking about, and asking them to share during whole class.

Writing a little post-it note to them telling them I’d like to hear their voice more in class because I think they have valuable things to contribute and either asking them to pick once this week they’re going to raise their hand and I’m going to call on them OR to write me a note about why they haven’t raised their hand in math class at all yet.

I’m also in the process of creating an extensive google form survey to ask my students to reflect on their class participation and how they either feel they do or don’t successfully participate on a daily basis. And in my survey, one thing I was especially proud of doing, was ensuring that when I wrote down the ways you participate, I included both talking in the whole group as well as in partnerships, asking questions, taking notes, listening actively, and solving the problems in their notes. So that allows students to consider a variety of ways they can successfully participate in class, and avoids overvaluing the contribution of the extroverted confident students who raise their hands a lot.

Writing my name tent messages with my students for a week gave me an insight into their minds, and I’m already referring back to our messages inside for ideas of ways to engage them in class – I’m even considering putting the post-it note messages INSIDE for them to discover! (As an aside, I haven’t decided what to do with the name tents yet. So far, I’ve been collecting them every day and redistributing them to the students – and by collecting, I mean my student teacher has been doing this, and some of the students have stopped setting up their names tents, in part, I assume, because many of them feel like everyone already knows their name by now – even though that may or may not be true. I’m wondering how long I continue using the name tents, if they go all year or what… A few of my students also asked me if we were going to get NEW name tents to continue writing messages to each other, and I told them no, but I was thinking about having us do it AGAIN in January (or perhaps sooner, if it seems necessary).

Number Talks (@PWHarris & @SaraVanDerWerf)

When I first heard about number talks, I was SUPER excited about them. I learned about them from a great PD with Kara Imm at MfA, and I was blown away by some of the more efficient strategies that they were able to introduce me to. I’ve always used SOME patterns and “shortcuts” but I’ve never used all of them before. Over the summer, I finally read the three books by Pamela Weber Harris, Building Powerful Numeracy, and I was totally on board. I even bought Making number talks matter, and read that whole book, which suggested beginning with the dot patterns and then moving into arithmetic. I read blogs about it, including the numberstrings.com blog and Sara Van Der Werf’s blog on it. I was thrilled when at the NYC mini-TMC, I was able to attend a session about number talks vs. number strings, and to participate in a few.

Now, I was told I should aim to do a number talk AT LEAST 3 – 4 times per week, and during the first two weeks, I should try to do one every day. I’m only in the fourth(ish) week of school, and I’m finding myself struggling with both of these already. First, 43 minute periods make it next to impossible to schedule a consistent routine daily, especially one that takes 10 – 15 minutes to do well – especially since I can’t currently envision how to do it as a “Warm-up” (unless I have photocopies of the handouts from Pam’s book and I use those as the independent warm-up and we discuss the strategies afterward – but I wanted students to have a bit of experience with them before working on the handouts).

The second thing (and this is one that I find hard to admit, which is why I’m pushing myself to make it public) – I have a lot of difficulty when I try to train myself in a new routine or activity, and I often need a lot of practice before I get good at leading it. For example, the first few times I led a number talk, I forgot to ask students what they thought the answer was, and I jumped right into the HOW or WHY they thought about the problem. I also found that for some of the student explanations, I can’t visualize how to represent their method on an open number line (we’re doing subtraction): for example, how do you represent “I switched 3 – 8 to 8-3, but then I made it negative because it’s the opposite.”

Another thing I’m struggling with is actually making it through more than two problems in one ten minute chunk OR keeping the kids’ stamina up to solve more than two problems in a string. We finally did a string the other day that had 6 problems in it, and by the last two, I saw many of my students’ body language (in 6th grade) indicating to me that their attention was spent, and they weren’t participating fully.

When I think about this longer string, I noticed in my students’ body language that they weren’t all listening to each other share out (as we only shared one strategy per problem), and there didn’t seem to be any accountability to paying attention or participating past putting your thumb up at the appropriate time so we could discuss. I don’t like to cold call students, especially in the beginning of the year when we’re still building relationships and getting comfortable with each other, but I notice I’m often hearing from the same 5 students, even with wait time (especially for explanations of their strategies or how they thought about the problems – some of the “quieter” kids are more willing to share their numerical answers to the problems, but only if they feel confident in their accuracy, it seems).

One other thing on my mind: I wish there was a way to gather my students in a circle or move my desks out of the way, because I feel like the students are TOO far away from my when we’re doing the number talks. I want them CLOSER to me so no one can “hide” because their desks. I’ve made our routine very specific to include pencils are down and knees are rotated to face the board and I wait, but the last two times I’ve done it, some students have been reticent to put their pencil down and focus OR to turn their bodies and I’m not 100% sure why.

So let’s talk about my sequence of introduction to number talks:

I began on the second week of school (first week only had two days with kids!). I introduced them to it with the quick images dot talk, and we did 6 dots and 10 dots and 11 dots on three of the four days that week. I ran out of time the fourth day. I did those with ALL of my classes, both 6th and 7th grade, but I noticed the 6th graders had more ways of seeing the diagrams than my seventh graders did.

In the third week of school (my first full week: last week!), I began my unit on integers with my 6th graders, and I began doing subtraction number talks with them. I originally planned to use those same number talks with my 7th graders, but I ran out of time the first day, and then every day after, I didn’t quite see how subtraction strings were close enough related to the current unit of study (probability and statistics), so I was unsure about taking 1/3 of class to discuss mental math skills that aren’t directly relevant to the work we’re doing RIGHT NOW. I considered doing different number talks with them, but I wasn’t sure what – I feel like fractions/decimals/percents would be most useful to them right now in their current unit, but I’m not sure exactly how to write strings for that. One thing we’ve done a bunch of so far in class is talk about the eighths as percents and the sixteenths as well. I’m wondering if there are strings I could design that would help them think about those percents more easily; I know the books don’t recommend starting there, but with my 7th graders (who seem so disaffected, honestly!), I’m worried about subtraction being seen as “too easy” by them.

At least in sixth grade, even though we’re thinking about subtraction (and we often all have only one answer), it appears much more related to our current unit of study. We looked at the comparison of the difference and removal ideas about subtraction (although I noticed that because of the types of problems I’ve given students from Kent Haine’s balloon and sandbags game, most of them are using only the removal strategy – I just thought of how I need to tweak it to encourage them to use the distance idea: “How far did the balloon move if it started at # and wound up at #?” I think I’d love to try that in a number talk on Thursday (after our quiz tomorrow on subtracting with negatives, but before we move into multiplying with negatives!). We also did a few problems from Pam Harris’ integer strings, and I’d like to incorporate more of those, because that’s where I saw some real sense-making beginning to happen, as they began to use the previous number statement to reason about the sign of the new one or to think about whether the balloon went up or down relative to the first number (i.e. doing 3 – 8 and then doing -3 – 8). During this third week, we did a number talk three of the five days of school.

This week, we’ve done NO number talks so far. I felt a bit rushed in trying to get my kids ready for their quizzes and keeping to a department timeline of when we should be moving into the next topic, so I decided to skip them (not a decision I’m necessarily proud of or happy about, but there it is). I know I don’t have time tomorrow to do it, but I want to be sure to try to do some on Thursday and Friday.

Anyway, I’m feeling a bit lost with my number talks right now. In 6th grade, I think I just need to get in the habit of making three days of the week “number talk day” and NO MATTER WHAT, we end with number talks that day, using the last ten to fifteen minutes (OR we begin with them??). In 7th grade, I want to think about fractions, decimals, and percents – I’ve noticed that MOST of the students are pretty comfortable with the basics, so I don’t think I need to go back to basics, but I don’t know that they have familiarity with any types of representations of their thinking – I think most of it has just been mental math done quickly and without analysis/thinking about how they know.

I find it a bit scary: researching a new teaching technique, reading all about it, planning for it, and then when you try it out, it doesn’t go exactly the way you wanted it to, and you’re not sure how to modify or fix it. My colleagues at my current school are NOT using number talks: at least not formally. Two of my colleagues don’t use them at all, but one of my colleagues instinctively builds them in as issues arise in class. For example, the other day, she told me her class was discussing the probability of getting 00 in roulette (based on a student question), and they were looking at the fraction 1/38 and considering how to turn it into a percent. She led them through a set of problems that she came up with on the spot to help them see how if they knew 1/4, they could easily figure out 1/40 or if they knew 1/3, they could easily figure out 1/30. I think that type of problem (relationships between fractions) might be a good place to begin with my seventh graders.

I feel like I’m not ready to completely give up on number talks for a few reasons, even though I feel like I’m having a rocky start to them:

  1. I think that the number sense and flexibility my students will gain from being exposed to different strategies and discussing them will be infinitely valuable to them.
  2. I think that different students may participate in number talks than in the “rest” of class, and I want to keep this activity that allows different groups of students to share out.
  3. I think that these strings can highlight strategies that the students may never have thought of before and I want to give them as many tools as possible to create versatile problem solvers.
  4. I think that the number strings will help them become fluent in the language of math calculations, if we do them enough times.

Anyway, I’m hoping to begin a conversation with other people who are trying or who have tried number strings/number talks, because I’d like advice or feedback about where to go next or how to troubleshoot the problems I feel like I’m running into so far.

As an aside: I’ve taken a bunch of pictures of my board after doing my number talks, and if I can figure out how to sync my photos on my phone with my blog, I will! Maybe this weekend….

Integers from @KentHaines

On Monday, September 26th, I rolled out my introduction to integers with my 6th grade classes. I’m making heavy use of the resources that Kent Haines has shared on his google drive, here: https://drive.google.com/drive/u/0/folders/0B2-Wy7iXL83zU0NSU3d1LVNzc0E

I’m going to give an overview of what I did each day of my week, and then delve more deeply into my reflection on it.

Monday, I had a double with one class and a single with the other. I began by doing an entry slip on a post-it note, where I asked the students to write down everything they thought they knew about integers/negative numbers so far, and then to rate how well they felt they knew it in three categories (strangers, say hi in the hallway, and besties). Most kids were in say hi in the hallway, with some in both of the other two categories. I read over the responses after class, and I found it interesting which details certain students chose to include: some students just said they knew they were numbers below 0, while others said they knew how to do operations (sometimes even giving specific rules they remembered).

After they placed their post-it notes (in my double, we briefly discussed what patterns they noticed and what surprised them about where the post-its were), we switched gears. My double spent the first period finishing up our discussion of the growing pattern from WIM (@Jo Boaler’s WIM year 1, day 5), and we put their work under the document camera and came to the “rule” or shortcut that they could add one to the stage number and square it to get the total squares. We introduced some new routines (giving a student two snaps when they come to the board and restating what other students said by sharing with our partners what we heard, and asking the presenter questions). In my other class, we had managed to do that the previous week (since they have their double on Thursday, not Mondays), so by the end of the first period, both classes were now in the same place.

The next thing we did was a number talk. The previous week, I had done at least two dot pictures with each class (my 7th graders also! 3 pictures in two of my classes that had doubles on Thursdays), and so they were used to the norms of showing their thumbs while they think. I asked them to think about two subtraction problems this time. I was originally going to do a number string from Pamela Weber Harris’s book to introduce the idea that subtraction could be thought of as distance between two numbers or as removal, but as they started sharing out their strategies, they had used such a variety of strategies and were so eager to share all of them, that I decided to focus just on those first two problems and elicit as many ideas as possible, thinking about this initial subtraction number talk as more of a formative assessment tool, to see how students were currently thinking about subtraction.

I showed them a picture of a hot air balloon and asked them what they knew about them. We pulled out some important information – in one class, we discussed the idea that helium makes some balloons go up, and we also discussed the idea that hot air rises, so that makes the balloons go up. They also said they knew that sandbags could add weight and make the balloon go down, but releasing them could make the balloon lighter and go up. I introduced the context for the game, and we began discussing the rules for how it would be played. Then, we talked about starting at 0 and how we could change our cargo as long as it didn’t change our height. I showed them two starting cargo loads, and asked them what their heights should be (both 0), and the students told their partners where they thought the balloons should start and why (most came up with the idea that there were an equal number of balloons and sand bags, so it stayed at 0). I showed them two different cards and asked them how we should change our cargo, and we shared out how that would change the balloon heights. In the double, we had more time than the single, so they had an opportunity to play in partnerships for a few minutes, whereas the single didn’t have enough time to play on Monday. I knew we’d need to play the game again in both classes on Tuesday.

Monday’s exit ticket asked students to tell me the cargo for a balloon to be at a height of 3 or 5 (depending on which class). Almost every single student came up with multiple correct loads! I had less than three students in both classes combined who had difficulty with it. Some of them noticed patterns and one of them even articulated that the pattern was as long as there were three more balloons than sandbags, you could load many combinations on there!

Tuesday, we began with an entry slip, analyzing student mistakes. We looked at the handout (also from Kent Haines) about making the height of 3, and we did a thumb vote so all students had a chance to participate and share their ideas about whether the balloons correctly modeled three or not. Everyone did really well on this, and most students seemed to get it completely correct, with good reasoning and answers.

Because I wanted to ensure that all students had enough time to play the balloons and sandbag game, we skipped our number talk I had intended for Tuesday. It takes the kids so long to get settled (just taking out supplies, copying the homework into their planners, putting away tonight’s HW and taking out tonight’s HW takes 5-7 minutes – and then they finally begin on the warm-up, and that can take another 5 minutes of work time!).

I had to pause the first class during the game play to review how they could do EXACTLY what  a card said by changing their cargo without changing their height (i.e. “Adding zero pairs to their balloon”), but in the second class, I anticipated this confusion, so we discussed it BEFORE beginning to play the game in partnerships. I then gave each class about 10-15 minutes of play time before telling them to choose the three worst cards and three best cards with their partner.

We had a debrief at the end of class as to why they thought certain cards were good or bad. I was pleased to see that they saw that removing sandbags and adding balloons were both “good” while adding sandbags and removing balloons were both “bad.” I ended with an exit ticket, where I asked students to place four balloons on the number line based on their cargo. Almost every student in both classes got all four of the balloons in the correct location. The exceptions were a few students who had clearly miscounted how many chips there were (my projection screen sucks, so I wasn’t too surprised).

On Wednesday, we began with a warm-up where students had to brainstorm how to move a balloon that was 3 ft above the cliff to 5 feet above the cliff. We discussed how you could EITHER remove 2 sandbags or add 2 balloons and concluded that it didn’t matter which way you did it, because they were equivalent. On this day, we also began to explicitly match the game to our numbers: balloons represented positive numbers while sandbags would be represented by negative numbers; putting new cargo on was the same as addition and removing cargo was the same as subtraction. We also established that removing balloons was equivalent to adding sandbags (both would make you go down) and adding balloons was equivalent to adding sandbags (both would make you go up).

Then we went into the number talk I had originally planned for Tuesday. This time, I gave them two more subtraction problems (one at a time) and asked students to give me thumbs up when they thought they had an answer and a strategy. We shared out strategies, and I highlighted the removal strategy and the distance/difference strategy. We discussed how they looked (difference seems to add on whereas removal uses subtraction), where the answers were (on the number line vs. the total jump), and when you would choose to use one vs the other (when the numbers are close together vs. far apart).

I then modeled with the students how to use the open number line to represent a balloon story. In one class, that was all we had time for, before I sent them to work on the open number lines for HW.

On Thursday, we began connecting number sentences with our experiences drawing on the open number line. The entry slip used the example from the previous warm-up (at 3, get to 5), and showed how to write a number sentence for the two main ways (i.e. 3 – (-2) and 3 + 2), and then asked students to explain how to change the cargo and write a number sentence to match a picture showing a balloon at 1 above that wanted to get to 4 below. The most common mistake I saw students make was thinking about only 3 balloons or sandbags instead of four (i.e. not thinking enough about the “Extras” as they cross the 0). I don’t think there’s quite enough understanding yet of the symmetrical nature of the number line.

We then went into checking the HW, where I first asked students to try writing a number sentence to match each open number line diagram they had drawn for the various situations (i.e. start here, change cargo like this, end here). Then we compared their number sentences with the answer key, and gave them some immediate feedback.

After the HW check, we went into a number talk, to solidify our understanding of the two main ways to picture subtraction – removal and distance/difference. We discussed when to use each, where our answers appeared, and how to recognize which one had been done. We then copied those notes into our notebook, so we would have the two methods for reference. In the class that had a single, we transitioned right into our exit ticket, where I gave the students two scenarios: one in which they had to add sandbags to a negative number and go more negative, and one in which they had to remove sandbags from a negative close to zero and go into the positives (as well as going up). Students had to both represent their thinking with an open number line, and write a number sentence to match the situation. In both classes, most students were able to correctly find the first answer, but some represented it as a subtraction sentence (instead of adding a negative, as the scenario would dictate), and in the second one, some of the students were able to correctly find the answer and represent it correctly, but more students got confused and added a negative instead of subtracting a negative (or adding a positive). I realized that my students would benefit from analyzing the mistakes that were made, so I created an entry slip for Friday where the students would view two common mistakes and have to explain what the mistakes were and why the student might’ve thought they were right.

In the class that had the double on Thursday, we spent the second half of the double practicing how to translate between the number sentences and the stories. After we went over the homework, I asked them who felt like they needed more practice starting with the story and representing it in a number sentence and who wanted to move on, and almost everyone voted to move on (I think I need to do more votes with them closing their eyes so they’re not unduly influenced by each other!), but it wound up being okay. We determined what question each number in the number sentence answered (i.e. “Where do you start? How do you change the cargo? and Where do you end?”), and then I gave them a chance to work on their own. I had them use a new routine to check their work (new to them; one I’ve used many times before). I find it to be better than always going over the answers as a whole class for the entire handout – I have them read their answers in groups, going around with one person reading answer 1, then the next person reading number 2, and so on. The listeners check off or circle their answers – checks meaning they agree and circles meaning they disagree. At the END, after reading ALL of the answers, they then discuss any they disagree about. Finally, they write on a post-it note any they disagree about, so I can track any patterns.We also might share as a whole class about one or two of those problems if there’s still a lot of confusion. After they did this activity, they did the same exit ticket as the other class.

On Friday, I had singles with both classes. In both classes, I wound up deciding to skip the number talk because I didn’t have enough time. I only wound up doing 3 number talks instead of the 5 I intended to, but I think we used our time in a meaningful way.

We did our entry slip first, with finding the mistakes. I liked having the students share about the mistakes (and the reasons they think the students might’ve made those mistakes) with their partners; I made it transparent that the mistakes I shared with them were REAL mistakes from their classmates on the exit ticket the day before. I also told them we were going to postpone our quiz that was supposed to be on Monday based on how many errors I saw. Only about 7 – 10 students in each class got all of it correct!

After we went over the mistakes as a whole class, and discussed why they were mistakes (i.e. translation errors vs. removing sandbags being the same as adding balloons and making the balloon go up!), we began the next task.

In the class that had the single the previous day, we introduced how to write the story from the number sentence and represent our thinking on the number line, and they got the same practice handout as the other class did the previous day. In the class that had had the double, we began the handout with the open number sentences – instead of the “answer” always being the one that’s missing, sometimes one of the two numbers being added/subtracted were missing.

In both classes, we did the same exit ticket. I put up five problems on the board (“naked number sentences”) and asked the students to copy them onto their post-it notes and write the answers. I found that ALMOST everyone in both classes got the addition problems correct (whether they were adding two negatives or adding one negative and one positive), but that the subtraction problems threw the kids off still. More than half the class still got these correct, but I realized there were still a significant chunk of students in both classes who were adding the two numbers instead of subtracting when the signs were different (i.e. 4 – (-1) became 3 instead of 5) I realized the “double negative” is what seems to be throwing kids off the most still (expectedly). I was pleasantly surprised that there only seems to be about four kids (two from each class) who were struggling with the addition ideas still.

So this brings me to my debrief for this first week of integers and my planning for this upcoming week:

  1. It seems like an AWFUL lot of prep for the game to have only played it once! I don’t think I realized how rarely we would actually play it, and I wonder if there’s a way to give the kids more of a chance to play it again (or to reuse the context or something at some point). Perhaps we can make it a choice-time activity they could earn some Friday or weird day (like when we have class on a Tuesday with Monday and Wednesday off for Columbus Day & Yom Kippur?).
  2. I liked our ability to refer back to the game over and over, and using only one context in the beginning. I’m wondering how/when I should introduce the students to the idea that there are OTHER contexts out there where negatives will show up. I know I need to because on the state exam (and in high school, etc.), they will be asked to represent situations using negatives that don’t involve hot air balloons and sandbags, and I want them to be prepared for how to think about this too.
  3. I’m impressed with how few students seem to have problems with the addition of negative numbers (whether it’s both negative or whether it’s one negative and one positive), as well as how many students are able to consistently subtract a bigger positive number from a smaller one to get a negative result (i.e. 5 – 8 = -3).
  4. I’m also impressed with how fluently the students are using the idea that adding a positive is the same as subtracting a negative and adding a negative is the same as removing a positive.
  5. I’m concerned about how many students are still confused about subtracting negatives correctly. I don’t know exactly what activity I should do next (this week) to reinforce that concept. I haven’t quite done all of the open number sentences yet from Kent Haines, but I’m going to do those on Monday. I want to make sure my students are fluently able to add and subtract with negatives before we move into multiplication and division (which I’m planning to start on Wednesday/Thursday).
  6. I don’t think I’ve done enough work around emphasizing the symmetrical nature of the number line (with 0 in the middle, the numbers go outward on both sides in the same pattern). I don’t think we’ve done enough work with this idea yet.
  7. I also don’t think I’ve done nearly enough work with comparing the numbers (which balloon is higher?) nor have I done enough work with absolute value (who’s farther from the cliff?), but I plan to incorporate that this week and next.

I think my plan for Monday is going to be to use the open number sentences with the students. In one class, we started those on Friday, and they were starting to make the connection between inverse operations, and I’m wondering how to make that more explicit. I’m also thinking about using the number talks/strings from Pamela Weber Harris’ book, as well as the most recent articles on integers from NCTM’s magazine teaching middle school math.

In general, I think my kids enjoyed the game and using the context of it to talk about numbers, but I definitely need some idea to help differentiate this experience because some of my students are already quite comfortable with the number lines and the operations and I need to challenge them to think more deeply (I just found a few problems on Open Middle that I can give to a few of the kids on Monday to think about).

If I hadn’t already made all of the materials to play the game, I don’t know if I would play the game again next year, but since I’ve already made the supplies, I do think I will keep using the game next year.




Day in the Life: First day of School (*2 days actually!)

Thursday, 9/8 was the first day of school this year. My alarm went off at 5:00AM, but I didn’t get out of bed until closer to 5:15AM. Luckily, my lunch was already made (and in my fridge in my classroom), so I only needed to make my tea and breakfast. I took a shower (15 minutes on my alarm), I shaved and I got dressed in my outfit for the first day (a green bow tie with chess pieces on it over a black shirt with gray pants, gray belt, and brown saddle shoes with fun green socks). I left the house by 6:45AM and walked to the subway. I think I caught the bus, so I was able to get the 7AM E train. I sat down and reviewed my checklist of things to do. Everything was printed and set up, I just needed to mentally prepare.

I exited the subway at around 7:25AM, and I decided that my tea I’d had at home hadn’t been enough, and I needed more caffeine. I decided to go to Starbucks and I got a Chai latte. I headed up to my classroom to meet my student teacher. He was also dressed nicely, in a button down and a nice patterned tie (I’m a big fan of dressing professionally – a post for another time, I suppose). I had enough time to turn on my computer, drink some chai, print out my class lists and organize some papers before my colleague came by at 7:45. She was about to head down to the gym, where we were meeting the 6th graders at 7:50. I needed to organize two more things, so I took a moment before I followed her, but then we went down the four flights of stairs together.

We were the first to arrive in the gym, so we decided where to stand with our signs that said our class numbers (I have 606, she has 601). We set up on opposite sides of the gym – she was near the door that the kids would come in, whereas I was near the door that we would exit into the building to go back upstairs – I wanted to be the first to leave! At almost exactly 7:55, they opened the doors and let the kids in! They streamed in and went to the tables with the PA members and class lists (and non-homeroom teachers on the 6th grade team) to find out which homeroom to go to (if they didn’t remember). When my students arrived, I asked them to check in with me, and I checked off their names on my roster, taking attendance. I noticed other classes were sitting on the gym floor, so I told them to sit down. I practiced names only a little bit because I had them coming so rapid-fire, one after another! At 8:10, I realized I had all but two students, and there didn’t seem to be anyone else entering the building, so I asked the team leader if we could go upstairs. She checked in with the principal and then gave us the okay.

I had 606 line up in two lines – I’ll confess that I’m definitely not an elementary school teacher – these lines were a bit crooked – and then I led them out of the gym, down the hallway, and up four flights of stairs! I had to remind myself to walk slowly because they were loaded down with lots of books and supplies in their bags. I forgot how little sixth graders are! I’ve taught 8th grade for the last five years, and there’s SUCH a huge difference between 8th graders (especially in June, which is my last memory of them!) and sixth graders in September!

Anyway, we got upstairs, and I had them (sort of) line up outside my room. Just outside my room is the hallway (fire) door, so there’s definitely NOT enough space for the entire class to line up outside! I quieted them down, and instructed them to find their names on the BLUE post-it notes on the desks and have a seat. They went in and did so. On their desks, I had placed a welcome folder that said Lab Middle School filled with all sorts of announcements for their parents. Unfortunately, I didn’t receive enough translations for all of my students, because the main office clearly doesn’t have their home languages sorted out yet – I got four copies of Chinese, but needed seven! I got no Korean, and no Spanish (and there was one other language too!).

First thing they did (and I’m so glad my new colleague advised me to do this) was used a Sharpie to write their names on their folders, on name tags (which we immediately put on our shirts somewhere visible) and on their school planners (which were distributed after we collected the money from the students who had it – but told the kids who didn’t have it yet not to worry! We give all of them the planners, and then those who can pay do). We also handed out the blue cards and the photo release forms (which weren’t stuffed in there for some reason), and talked about some procedures. I introduced myself to the students and welcomed them to my new MS. I told them I was new to Lab also, so sometimes, I might have to answer a question with “I don’t know yet, I’ll find out for you!” but I also told them I wasn’t new to teaching. Many of them knew my old school, either because it had been their second choice for Middle School or because their friends/siblings went there! One kid even thinks her older brother knows me (though I didn’t teach him!). We talked about the purpose of homeroom, and we collected supplies from the students. I asked them if they had any questions, and for the most part, they didn’t. I also gave them a gift – a pencil and an animal eraser that hangs on the pencil!

First period was over before I knew it, and I had to walk my homeroom to their next class (as they are not yet familiar with the building layout, and as sixth graders, they’ve never changed classes on their own before yet!). They had art class second, and he was surprised that class was over already! My new middle school shares a building with two other schools (both high schools), so there are no bells – those schools have different schedules to stagger student arrival/dismissal/lunch/gym, etc. times, so you have to keep track on your own. Anyway, he said his homeroom class had gym next, so I offered to walk them down so he could start with my homeroom (figuring either way I had to wait until that class was dropped off before I could leave my homeroom alone). I got to the gym, and the teacher came over to me and told me they had 100 8th graders and this sixth grade class did NOT have gym! Whoops! So I waited with them until their humanities teacher arrived to escort them back upstairs.

I went on my prep, and my student teacher and I “reset” the room for my homeroom to come back to math class. We placed the handout that would be turned into the name tent as well as the green card stock for their name tents on each desk. We placed the bins with markers on each of the rows. We discussed a little bit, and I reminded myself of the things we needed to do between classes. I also instructed him to “reset” the room for math with 704 when I walked my homeroom to their fourth period class.

When my homeroom came back, I told them to take out their summer math packets and grab a marker. I had them pass in the papers by passing them to the right in each row (I learned that from Harry Wong, I believe, and it’s one of my favorite time-saving procedures!). We folded the name tents together – some of them had trouble folding in thirds (which was interesting to see them not following the directions – some due to confusion and some due to finding another way simpler, perhaps?). Then I previewed what we would do with them at the end of class, and I had them write their names on it “large enough for everyone to see.” I then told them since it was math class, we were going to discuss some very important numbers! I then did my ice-breaker activity: mr-golan-numbers where I asked them to circle which one is true about me. I showed slides, and we went back and forth where I asked them to circle it, and then I told them to choose one to share with a partner. I had them introduce themselves to their “elbow” partner and share one of their important numbers. (While I was doing my numbers about me, I had my student teacher go around and pass out metrocards, because I forgot to do that during morning homeroom!).

Afterward, I had them pass in their numbers about them. My student teacher took those home to read that night, but I’ve taken them home this weekend, so I’ll catch up on it another day. I passed out their homework and had them take out their planners to copy it down from the board – which I now have them do at the start of class (since it’s already on the board each day!). I explained the Who Am I HW assignment to them (also collected on Friday for me to read this weekend), and the curriculum letter. When they were done copying the HW, I had them put everything away except a pencil and their name tents, and I explained what they were going to do inside – I read aloud the directions and then I gave them some quiet writing time. I had them pack up and line up, and before I could even leave my room, the seventh grade class arrived! I lined them up to wait with my student teacher until I got back from walking my homeroom to their next class – science on the far opposite corner of the building! (my new school’s hallway is shaped like a square).

When I came back, I did the same lesson for the first period of our double: we created the name tents, collection of summer assignment, and then the numbers about me and my student teacher. Then we had them introduce themselves to their partners with their name and one important number (I did an informal poll in each class – in my 6th grade classes, no one knew more than 4 other people in the class, but in 7th grade, they knew more than 10 but not more than 20!). That only took the first period.

For the second half, I wanted to spend a little bit of time getting them used to what math would look like in my class – very different than my colleagues and their previous experiences I assume (since I’m a huge Jo Boaler fan, and none of my colleagues are yet – one of them is resistant to her, in fact!). I spent a lot of time debating (in advance) what to do because on day 1, I saw my classes totally different amounts – I saw my sixth grade homeroom for two periods, but one of them was homeroom period with “school business” to handle and only one was for math. For my two doubles, I saw different grades: one sixth grade class had a double math and one seventh grade class had a double math! And the other seventh grade class didn’t meet me until Friday because they normally see me first period on Thursdays, so they were also in homeroom! I also worried about choosing something too content heavy on day 1 and giving students who already had some math anxiety/phobia a distaste for my class. So I opted to use Which One Doesn’t Belong? (my first time ever, btw!).

I LOVED it!! I thought it went really well. I started with the logo for WODB, and MOST kids were in either in the circle quadrant or the red square quadrant. I showed the picture on the board for a few minutes, and I asked them to give me a thumbs up when they thought they knew which one didn’t belong and had a reason. Then I directed the students to move to one of the four corners in the classroom corresponding with the top left, top right, bottom left, and bottom right quadrants. I told them to find an efficient path to walk there before they got up and then I had them stand and push in their chairs. Two kids came over to me and asked which corner to go to because they thought of more than one reason, so I told them to think about what they noticed first and go there. Once they were in the four quadrants, it became obvious that some corners were more popular than others. I told them to pair up and talk with someone about why they chose that corner and discuss a reason for it. They did, and when I brought them back together again, I asked them who thought they could convince us their corner didn’t belong, and my student teacher scribed it up on the board for us. I called on someone from each quadrant, and I even asked who wanted to add on. We managed to get two reasons up there for each quadrant (some I hadn’t even thought of before!).

I sent them back to their seats and I told them that some of the students had come to me when we were moving to the corners and asked me a question. I asked that boy to share why he’d come to me, and he told the class that he thought there was a reason why EACH one didn’t belong, so he didn’t know which corner to go to. I explained that he had made a great observation and that when we did this routine, that would always happen. I showed them another image (shapes set 14 from wodb.ca), and I gave them some think time. I told them we were going to start the same – go to one corner that we saw first – but when they got there, they would need to discuss reasons not only for their own quadrant, but to try to come up with a reason for ALL of them! Again I noticed some quadrants were more filled than others, but the students came up with at least two reasons for each quadrant again, sometimes pointing out reasons for other quadrants!

During both of these share outs, I had to pause because there were some listening issues. Some of the students were having side conversations, so I had to set the one microphone rule and establish some good listening habits. I think some of it was that they wanted to socialize on day 1 because they were seeing friends for the first time after the summer. Anyway, for the third image, I had them stay in their seats and turn to their partner and share. I told them to come up with as many reasons as they could for ALL of the quadrants. This time, we did shape 51, which I really like because I think it looks similar enough to the dot patterns for the number talks that it was getting them ready to think about how we’re going to look at dots. We had lots of great words come up, and when there was a lull in reasons, I shared one about the dots in the BR being the only rows of horizontal dots, and so someone added on that the TR was the only one where the dots were all in vertical rows. I spent a little bit of time debriefing the activity, and talking about WHY we might do something like this (on the first day, no less!). We established that in math, sometimes the thing you noticed first might not be the most helpful for solving a problem, so it’s good to look at the problem from multiple perspectives. We also established that comparing and contrasting in general is a good idea. We also talked about the importance of listening to each other because someone might notice something important that you didn’t notice.

After we finished this, it was time to write in our name tents. I explained the activity, and I had them open up their name tents and write to me. Since they are seventh graders, I didn’t need to walk them to their next class – besides, they had homeroom next! My homeroom came back to me. We talked about the lunch procedure, as well as the out lunch permission slips they needed to get signed. I assigned lunch buddies by just pairing up elbow partners, and I asked them to share the most recent movie they’d seen and whether or not they had liked it with their partner. I lined them up and led them downstairs for lunch. On the way downstairs, a student from one of the high schools stopped in her tracks and was like, “Mr. Golan?” I taught her a few years ago at my old school and she was surprised to see me there! I said hi but I couldn’t stop to chat because I had to drop my homeroom off at the cafeteria, and they went in to eat lunch. I went back upstairs and ate lunch with my student teacher. I was finally able to go to the bathroom, and let me tell you – three periods in a row is a lot to go! At one point, I realized I wasn’t sure what time we had to bring the 6th graders outside during 8th period, so I went down the hall to the 6th grade team leader’s room, and I discovered a bunch of teachers eating in there together. They invited me to join them, but I declined (since I wanted to fix some of my slides and talk with my student teacher more), but they clarified when we needed to bring the kids downstairs.

My student teacher and I discussed the day so far while we ate lunch – I had a sandwich that wound up being hard (left in my fridge for three days, since I didn’t need it on Tuesday when the cafeteria staff made us lunch), but the cookie was yummy, and I treated myself to a caramel chocolate – a thank you gift from the teacher who I gave borders to last week. Before I knew it, lunch was over, and I had to go downstairs and pick up my homeroom. We brought the sign again, and I collected them at the back door by the the staircase closest to my classroom. We went back upstairs, and they got their belongings from my room and went to 7th period. I forgot to walk them there (plus, I wasn’t quite sure where it was exactly!), but it was okay because before I knew it, my next class was arriving.

Now, this is my sixth grade split class – kids from two homerooms are split between three teachers (and we teach simultaneously) due to IEP guidelines – so I had two different homerooms dropping kids off. One class arrived a bit before the other (since that teacher was right next door!), and I let them in and start folding their name tents. The other class arrived, and I had to re-explain it. I think that might be part of why I had so many more odd-folded tents in this class? Our lesson was almost identical to the 704 lesson, except that we had to end a little early, so we only did the first WODB (the logo). I saved the other two images for Friday’s class.

At 2:10, I had them put up their chairs and I lined them up to bring them downstairs to the yard. It took them FOREVER to pack up (I forget how long sixth graders take for everything!), so we weren’t downstairs until dismissal time (2:20). It’s okay, though, because two more classes came out after us! Anyway, when we were down there, the PA had lemonade and pretzels, and many of the parents were there to meet their kids! I dismissed students and I got myself some lemonade (and one for my student teacher who was wisely hiding in the sliver of shade next to the building!). Some of the kids brought their parents over to meet me, and I had a chance to introduce myself to the PA people handing out lemonade too! It was a nice event – I’ve never taught 6th grade at a school that did that before, so it was interesting to meet the parents before I even knew who their kids were (I don’t have the names memorized yet, obviously, and barely the faces even, so I kept having to ask what homeroom their child was in!).

I returned upstairs, and I met with the other sixth grade math teacher after a quick bathroom break. We discussed several topics. We talked about norm-setting activities for Friday and next week (she liked WODB, and she decided to make a powerpoint of it! She asked me how to run it, and I shared with her my experiences). We talked about some problem-solving stuff we planned to do next week – she plans to use the handshake problem (I don’t think I will yet); she plans to use the 100 numbers activity I gave her from Sara Van Der Werf (my plan for Tuesday!).

Then we started discussing integers, which we both plan to start on the following Monday – our first full week of school. We went on the computer and discovered that my predecessor had left the computer logged into her Lab Middle School Dropbox account, and so it had her folders on 6th grade math – so I shared them with my own account! My colleague and I went through some of the resources, and I decided that I didn’t like most of what they had done for integers. They did use the number line model, and they used bears walking the number line. But both reading and hearing the context, I felt a bit confused when it came to subtraction – “when you subtract, it means go to the left, but when you have a negative, it means to reverse direction, so go to the right.” There wasn’t any logic that I COULD remember well, and in WODB, I already discovered that some of my students are struggling with remembering left and right! I shared with her the hot air balloon game from Kent Haines, and she seemed intrigued by the game itself, but wary of the prep time involved in creating the game pieces. I submitted my copies of it on Friday, and I’m planning to have my step daughter do some of the cutting to help me – I might be able to convince her once I show her the pieces. (In a meeting on Friday, I think I might have support from the 7th grade team about getting her to use it, so we have a common problem for 7th grade teachers to reference the same context!). Plus, the 7th grade teachers liked the idea that the subtraction of a negative makes INTUITIVE sense, so they can go back to it if they get confused. (I also started looking at the anchors and floats on Friday, but I noticed the text was so light, I couldn’t print it out well!).

Anyway, she left us after about two hours, so my student teacher and I debriefed the day a bit and discussed the plan for Friday. We had to make some adjustments to the seating chart for the class I hadn’t seen yet because there were some last minute roster changes. He and I watched the videos from Jo Boaler’s WIM #2 and decided on some of the videos I would show in class on Friday. My partner called me a few times to find out when I was planning on leaving – first at 2:55PM (shortly after the kids were dismissed and I made it back upstairs), then around 4:00, and again around 5:30. I told her I would leave by 6PM (Since that’s when my building closes!), and I left right on time. I asked my student teacher to use the paper cutter in the morning to chop up the reflections for talking points.

I took the subway home and began reading the name tents on the journey and responding to them. I LOVE them. It was so great to see the kinds of things that the kids wrote to me. I may have spent too long writing back, though, because after my half hour train ride, I’d only done half of one class! I put them away when I got off at my station so I could walk home from the train. I walked into my building at the same time as the Chinese food delivery guy did (around 6:45PM/7PM). My partner, her daughter and I ate dinner together, and watched a little bit of Orange in the New Black (no spoilers please! Only up to the second episode of the most recent season). I decided I wanted to continue responding to the name tents before I did any other work, and I also decided that I wanted to get some exercise. I gained a lot of weight over the summer, and my work clothes barely fit me! So I decided to combine the two, and I rode our recumbent stationary bike for almost two hours while I wrote responses to all of the students! It was interesting how a few kids drew me pictures (one of my bow tie! and one of himself), a few kids wrote to me about their fears about math, some wrote about how much they liked math or the activity we had done that day, or that they were nervous. Some kids asked me questions, including how much homework we would have, what we would learn about, and whether class would be difficult! Some kids didn’t write much, so I tried to ask them a question they could respond to the next day to elicit more out of them. Surprisingly, five or so of the 7th graders wrote to me that they were cold! I thought they would be grateful for the AC (I know I am!), but I guess right before lunch, they’ve just been sitting all morning and in AC all morning, they don’t appreciate it as much as right after lunch!

When I was done with the name tents (and my bike ride), I took a shower because I was so sweaty. Afterward, it was time to get to work. First, I had to download the videos I had decided on showing, and I had to decide on what question prompts I wanted students to think about/discuss with their elbow partners during class on Friday. I started creating my powerpoint for the next day – I decided to do it in Smart Notebook (which I still have on my home computer) and then export the file to Powerpoint. I realized that I was trying to cram too much in because all of my classes had a single. I wanted to do two main activities on Friday: the Talking Points and viewing some of the WIM videos (#1, 2, and 4 were the three I settled on).

By the time I finally decided I was done for the night, it was almost 1AM! I had to wake up four hours later for Friday! When my alarm went off, I groaned and snoozed! I snoozed two more times, and I got up a little bit later. Since I’d showered after my bike ride the night before, and I wasn’t planning  to shave since my neck was feeling sensitive, I skipped my morning shower. When I went to make my lunch, I realized we were out of salami (all deli meat, in fact!) because we hadn’t gone grocery shopping for lunch supplies yet! I remember I had leftover Chinese food, so I packed some Chicken with Broccoli into a plastic container (I use ikea containers for all of my lunch items!), as well as another Kashi Cookie and a pudding cup for lunch. I had some fruit in my fridge at school, so I didn’t prepare any new ones. I made my tea and breakfast, ate them sitting at the dining room table (and reading twitter!), and then I walked the dog and left for the subway. I caught the bus this time, so I got the subway earlier, and I was exiting the subway in Manhattan before 7:20! On my way out, I noticed one of my students from last year entering the subway, and I said hi! I realized I forgot my tea in the microwave (I was reheating it while I walked the dog, but then I forgot to grab it!), so I stopped at Caffe Bene on the way to school. I ran into ANOTHER one of my students from last year in there!

Armed with my almond chai, I headed to my building. Clocked in, picked up my attendance, and went upstairs to meet my student teacher. I wrote the link for my parent and student surveys on the board for my students to do as HW this weekend). I had him place each student’s name tent on their desk, and opened the files on the computer. I prepared my slides and my videos, and I realized I needed to open up yesterday’s welcome activity for the split class 7th graders that I hadn’t met yet, but would see third period. I also played around with the doc camera to see if you could see the documents, but it’s not great. The font on the handout was pretty small, so I couldn’t stay zoomed out and have it legible.

Friday was the second day of school, and I was in the hallway by 7:55 awaiting my homeroom students. They dropped off stuff in my room (in the “closet” where there are some hooks for lunch boxes, etc.), and I sent them off to first period on their own! My seventh graders (704) arrived soon and I instructed them to sit in the same seats, take out their planners, a pencil, and their homework. We passed the homework in to the right. They copied down the links (though I realized later, I told them the wrong case! and I didn’t give them my email address, so unless they look at their curriculum letter, they won’t know how to contact me!). Then I had them read the messages I wrote to them in their name tents.


I began by telling them we were going to watch some videos today about learning math and talk about what we saw. I told them for the first video to think about what the math myth was, and if they’d ever heard it before. I played WIM2, Day 1’s video from Jo Boaler, and then asked my kids to put their minds on what they’d just heard and to tell their elbow partner what the math myth was. I heard lots of good discussions, and we shared out what it was, and that it wasn’t true. I asked how many of them had heard it before and many of the GIRLS raised their hands!

The next video I told them was going to be about mistakes, so I wanted them to think about what mistakes were good for. We watched the second video, and they discussed again. Then we shared out. We followed the same process for the third video about speed. Immediately after watching it, one of my students raised his hand and asked me if speed wasn’t important, why was the first part of the summer math assignment on delta math timed?? (I didn’t want to indicate to him that I neither had any input on that, nor that I had even known that in advance!) I thought about it for a moment, and I told him that unfortunately, our school was a part of the DOE, and the DOE is a large organization, so sometimes, it takes a long time for the practices to catch up to what the research discovers. I pointed out how last year’s state exam was untimed, and how we were making little changes. He nodded and seemed to accept that.

After the we watched the videos, we had about 20 minutes remaining in class, and I wanted to try to do the Talking Points activity with the students. I explained the instructions, and then my student teacher and I modeled what a round would look like. I showed the students how to turn their desks into groups of four and talk with each other. I gave them the handout, and then I circulated and listened in on a few groups as they got through their statements found on this document I created here: intro-to-talking-points-day-1-shortened. I told them I didn’t expect them to finish all 22 (and in fact, I think we’ll revisit this activity sometime another day because I think ALL of these points are important!), but the important thing was to practice the routine. As I went around, I saw many groups following it correctly, but two groups were rushing through it, and not following the no comment, nor the turn-taking, so I had to go and assist those groups in following the directions. I think they had people who were used to just saying the “right answer” and moving on, that they didn’t feel invested enough in this activity to take their time with it. Unfortunately, it was somewhat rushed, and most groups didn’t even get up to the third or fourth statement when we had to stop! I paused them and gave them the group reflection handout for it, but they didn’t have time to finish that either! I interrupted them again and I had them move the desks back and write on their name tents to me. At the end of class, one of the very quiet students (who I’m actually worried about) came up to me and said he didn’t have a pencil. I took out one of my extras that was a goody bag one, and I gave it to him so he could copy down his homework – but I discovered that he hadn’t written ANYTHING in his name tent because he had no pencil all period!

Second period, we had a prep, so I switched gears mentally to get ready for the other class that we hadn’t met yet – 701/703/705 (my split classes). I also prepared my powerpoint for my homeroom, so I would be ready for them. I taught back to back different classes – 701/3/5 and 606. I made sure every desk had a name tent, a handout for the numbers about me activity, and a pencil gift. My student teacher placed the post-it notes on each desk for the next class. Second period flew by and before I knew it, I heard students in the hallway.

Third period, I had my seventh graders arriving from different places (one class had come from the first floor while another had come from down the hallway!). So I let the students in as they arrived and wound up having to explain the directions several times on how to fold the name tents. I asked them to take out their summer math assignments, and a bunch of them were confused because they had submitted it digitally – so I told them that was fine too!

This class was a repeat of the day before, but I think I fumbled some of my opening (where I tell them to call me Mr. Golan or Mr. G), but I figure I can fix some of those details later (and already began!). I did the numbers about me activity, and had them introduce themselves and share (they were more like the sixth graders in that they didn’t know as many students in the room – probably in part because the homerooms are mixed up!). We did the introduction to an elbow partner and shared an important number. Finally, we concluded with the name tents. One thing that’s significant about this class is that there are only 24 students in the class! All of my other classes have at least 29 – 31. Part of the reason is that the way it’s split, there are four teachers (one for a SMALL class of like 8 – 12 kids who have IEPs and struggle a lot) for only three homerooms, and part of it is because the accelerated class is oversized at like 36 or so.

As they were still finishing up, my homeroom arrived with their third period teacher, so I collected the name tents and dismissed 701/3/5. I had my student teacher place the name tents on the end of each row in order so the students could take theirs and pass it down. The only trouble was with the kids on the end who were taking a long time to get out their HW and a pencil didn’t pass it down immediately. I helped out a few rows to get it done, and we began.

We watched the videos and had similar conversations, but it took us a little longer to model (I wanted them to get the routine right this time!), and I wanted to make sure that we took the opportunity to do it right. Unfortunately, we spent so much time moving our desks that most groups in this class only did one or two of the talking points before we ran out of time. We didn’t even have a chance to debrief it or do the group reflections! I chose to prioritize the name tents, and we spent a few minutes doing that instead.

I brought them to ELA, and then spent my fifth period prep looking over the revisions I wanted to make for the afternoon, for the other 6th grade class. I didn’t think last period would go fast enough, so I decided to hold off on the talking points activity. I decided there wasn’t enough time to do it right, so we would instead do the two WODB that the 7th grade class had done the day before but that they hadn’t seen yet.

I also tried to troubleshoot my projector. I don’t understand why it’s doing this (especially since it’s only sometimes!), but when I turn on the screen and the doc camera, and I turn on my ENO board, the projector often shows only the left 7/8 of the screen. The right-most 1/8 is cut off/invisible! I can’t figure it out, and so I sent an email to someone else this period, and he stopped by during lunch. Of course, by then, it obviously hadn’t made the same error, so he couldn’t offer advice!

When homeroom rolled around, 606 came back to me. I had them take out their folders and I collected a bunch of the school paperwork for them. I realized I needed more translations of items than I was given. I hate paperwork and I’m sick of it! I can’t wait for  September to be over in that regard (in others, I want it to go slower!). We paired up with same lunch buddies again, and I heard some groaning (so I might need to reassign them on Tuesday). Lunch buddies are my school’s way of helping ensure everyone has someone the first two weeks.

This time, I didn’t walk them all the way downstairs – I did remind them what the path looked like, when to come back (to be on time to 7th period!), and then I sent them on their way! I went to the bathroom again, and I ran into two high school students coming out of the stairwell (there’s one HS science lab on my floor). One of the boys was VERY tall, and he says, “Mr. Golan? Is that you?” I look up (and up and up!) and I recognize one of my favorite former students. I break into a big smile, and I say, Yes, it’s me! He asks me how long I’ve been working here, and I tell him this is just my first year at this school. He opens his arms wide and wants a hug! So I give it to him. I thought it was pretty adorable that here’s this boy who’s probably about 17 or 18 (senior in HS most likely) who wanted a hug from his 8th grade math teacher who he hadn’t seen since he graduated! I guess that speaks to my impact on him.

My student teacher and I ate lunch together again in my room, and we discussed siblings. It was nice to share a moment with him and know him as a person. I ate and relaxed a little and mentally planned how we were going to switch up the afternoon.

When lunch ended, kids came back upstairs anywhere between five minutes early and three minutes late. A few kids were grateful for the cool AC (since they’d been outside in the yard!), but I only had them with me from the time they got upstairs until they got their bags – I sent them right to next period! I told them the class and room number, and a few of them asked me which direction to go. When I realized that I didn’t know, I decided to go around the building and make a map. I’m still not quite sure of everything, but I have a much better mental picture – I think I might want to make it neater and project it for them so they can have a visual map too!

I went to my 7th grade math cluster common planning time 7th period. We started by discussing the grading policy for the summer assignments (ID yourself and Delta Math online). I wanted to make sure I was consistent, and so we did. Then we moved into a discussion of our topics for next week, and they mentioned how the kids in the split class (in one of the rooms) had trouble with integers and how they weren’t fluent with them yet. I bridge the 6th and 7th grade, so I was able to offer perspective on what my colleague had told me she did (or didn’t) do last year. We talked about the importance of developing fluency (but disagreed about the use of memorization vs. developing it through repeated usage and meaningful practice), agreed upon the idea that conceptual understanding was important and just giving rules would never help, and I began sharing the context of the balloons. They seemed to really like that idea, and said maybe this was the year to get in alignment (since I was new and provided perspective to all grade levels). I’m much more willing than my predecessor was to collaborate (and in fact, I ENJOY collaboration! I miss my former co-teachers from last year the most because we had such good collaboration by the end of the year!). I think they’ll support me in pushing the balloon model/game into our unit.

At the end of the meeting, one of them told me she received a parent email about a delta math assignment – and it turns out that the boy who asked about the timed nature of the HW hadn’t completed it for some reason (he told me he had problems with it!). It was really interesting listening to the  perspectives of my colleagues and realizing how much I disagree with them about speed and fluency. I just logged into the summer assignment myself, and I found the timer that’s counting up as you work both distracting and anxiety producing – and I have NEVER felt math anxiety before! I’ve always considered myself a good student, and I’m confident in my math skills now.

Anyway, we ran out of time, so I rushed back to meet my sixth grade split class. I had my student teacher lay out the name tents before we’d gone to the meeting, so they came in and read the messages, took out homework, and copied homework into their planners. I showed them the three videos, facilitating a very similar conversation with them about each of the videos. Instead of rushing the talking points though, the next thing we did was the Which One Doesn’t Belong? activity with getting up and moving, and discussing with partners, which we did for two different patterns. Then it was time to correspond on the name tents!

I dismissed the kids this time from the back of the room, and they just left (some were a bit afraid of getting lost!) rather than being escorted downstairs. I went over to the other 6th grade teachers’ class to check in about how we were grading the summer assignment. I met the special ed math sixth grade teacher and she was able to answer the question. We didn’t come to quite as much alignment, since her HW assignments are normally worth 2 points, and the summer HW was worth 27 points. I decided to make sure its weight was roughly 13 assignments, and that it would be fine!

Then I went back and checked in with my student teacher. I looked over the papers I printed out fifth period, and organized them to give in for copies. We discussed how he would grade the summer assignments this week and next, and we also discussed some of the plan for the following week.

I went downstairs to leave at 3:45, and drop off the papers to be copied in the office with the parent coordinator (who does all of our copies, since we don’t have a school aid!). She chatted with me for a bit, and then I realized I needed to dash to make my family therapy appointment. After therapy, we went to Ricky’s to look at nail polish (and my partner tried a few colors on my hand when she ran out of fingers to use!), then went out to dinner at Westville, and home on the subway afterward (deciding to forgo the gelato now that we’re on weight watchers).

On the subway ride home, I began reading and responding to some of the name tents, but I got through even fewer on the way than the previous day’s trip! When I got home, we made a to do list of all of the chores we’d neglected to take care of – paying the storage unit bill and setting up automatic payments, calling about installing Fios, etc. After those chores were done, it was after 9:30PM. I decided I wanted to finish the name tents, so I did – I fell asleep as soon as I did the last one, a little after midnight! I was exhausted.

Now here I am, just after midnight again, having written a gigantic post about my last two days. I definitely wish that I’d been able to blog about it sooner, because I feel like some of the stories are “fuzzy in detail” because it happened so long ago.

1) Teachers make a lot of decisions throughout the day.  Sometimes we make so many it feels overwhelming.  When you think about today, what is a decision/teacher move you made that you are proud of?  What is one you are worried wasn’t ideal?

Well, the decision I’m proud of is related to one I worried wasn’t ideal. I knew on Thursday night while planning that I had too much to fit into one period, but I tried to cram it all in anyway because I thought both things were super important. I think I wish that I hadn’t tried to do BOTH things in one day, but instead had waited until next week or so. However, I am proud of the fact that I decided to change it after lunch, and not make it rushed for the last class of the day.

2) Every person’s life is full of highs and lows.  Share with us some of what that is like for a teacher.  What are you looking forward to?  What has been a challenge for you lately?

I’m looking forward to getting to use all of the different activities I’ve read about this summer. Already, the ones I’ve used so far have been tremendous, and I’m excited to be at a new school too.

Challenges: balancing work life with family life. Today, I barely did any work, and I feel guilty! I spent the morning making breakfast with my partner and working on weight watchers recipes, then I biked in the afternoon again. We watched Ocean’s 13 in the morning (finished it, really), and then we watched Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell as a family at dinner. We watched a second episode, and when they asked if I wanted to watch another one, I said I wanted to go write my blog! They couldn’t imagine that (neither of them use the internet socially as much as I do).

3) We are reminded constantly of how relational teaching is.  As teachers we work to build relationships with our coworkers and students.  Describe a relational moment you had with someone recently.

I’m building the relationship with my students through the name tents, which I’m proud of and enjoying.

I’m building a relationship with my colleagues, but I’m also discovering lots of differences of opinions with some of the people I have to work with. For example, on Wednesday, we had some PD about dealing with more challenging students, and the way in which some of the teachers talk about “those students” made me really uncomfortable. Then, on Friday, at my meeting and in interacting with my colleagues, their persistent beliefs about the importance of speed in math (despite research that shows otherwise!), and other little things that keep cropping up – I think I’ve got some very strong opinions that are in conflict with theirs. I don’t like conflict, so I’m struggling with how to manage that, especially since I am still new and these are people who I want to respect me and build a good working relationship with.

4) Teachers are always working on improving, and often have specific goals for things to work on throughout a year.  
First post: What is a goal you have for the year?  

I think I did a good job of making a relationship with my students in the first two days. I LOVE the one-on-one conversations I’ve had with each of my students so far from the name tents. I can’t wait to look at the “Who Am I” handout. I also think I’ve done a pretty good job at incorporating ways to think about learning math and talking about math so far.

I think on that note, I’m going to sign off and go to bed!

Day in the Life: Professional Development Day

My alarm started blaring at 5:00AM, but I snoozed until 5:20AM. Even though I gently led myself back to early morning wake-ups, it was a tough thing to get out of bed this morning. I’ve got to be at a meeting promptly at 8AM, so even though there are no students, I plan to arrive by 7:30ish. I gave myself much longer than I have in the past to get ready – I woke up (even with the snoozing!) about an hour and a half before I had to leave to take the subway to work. I showered, shaved, made my lunch, breakfast and tea, and walked the dog (though I almost forgot to walk him – I had to go back!). I walked to the subway the whole way because I just missed the bus by two minutes, so I caught the 7:06AM train instead of the 7AM train. I’m leaving at a different time than my last school, so I’m still getting used to when to leave to catch the good transfers. I managed to snag a seat at the next station, and I was surprised by how quickly my ride flew by – I was getting off the subway by 7:30! I get a text from my student teacher asking if it’s okay that he’s waiting in my classroom for me – and I love that he’s taken my advice about punctuality to heart and is there before me!

As I’m walking from the subway to my school, I spot some other teachers who clearly work in my building – they’re carrying posters and other supplies! I notice my friend is ahead of me, and I run into her in the main office. She’s there with another teacher who was trying to find my mailbox (which I don’t have yet because I’m new) – she delivered a thank you and a bag of chocolates to me because I gave her some of my extra borders on Friday when she had a “bulletin board emergency” (accidentally taking down someone else’s board!).

I chat with them on our way to the elevator – I’m still not used to my school having one! We get in together and ride up to the fourth floor. I don’t think I’ll do that every day, but it’s nice once in a while! I say good bye and head across the building to my room to get settled. I meet my student teacher there; he’s dressed even nicer than I am in a dress shirt and tie (I just wore a button down shirt for the first day, figuring we’re gonna get sweaty with final cleaning and postering!).

I answer a few of his questions and I decide to take my iPad to the morning meeting. We head over early, because I’m not 100% sure where room 417 is yet. There’s a breakfast outside of the room, but I don’t take anything because I ate before I arrived. When I arrive, the Principal is there early, prepping for the meeting. I notice there are folders at everyone’s seat with names on them, so I look around for mine. I find the folder with my name on it, and there’s a name tag with my name in it too! I love that both my first AND last name are on it; my last school only used first names which felt very stuffy and distant. This first name usage makes me feel like I’m joining a family. I ask my principal about a chair for my student teacher, and she points out that she already placed an extra chair at my table for him, as well as a blank name tag and a Lab Middle School hand bag for him too! We got some swag – nice colored pens for grading, electronic timers, as well as a Lab mug with a handwritten note from the principal welcoming me to the family!

They give us a little bit of time to socialize and catch up, and I notice that I know the woman sitting next to me because she’s also a 6th grade math teacher and we met back in June, but I don’t know the other three people at my table. Introductions around and we chat until the Principal calls us to order. She introduces the agenda for the day and points out all of the paperwork that’s in our folders (and our official handbooks!). She also pointed out important people whose faces we needed to know.

Then we start with a TED talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/drew_dudley_everyday_leadership?language=en

We watched the video and discussed in our tables our own “lollipop moment” – someone who had an impact on us. I thought it was really interesting that everyone at my table spoke about someone who was in an educator role; many about formal teachers, but mine was a camp counselor I had at Space Camp. We connected because we both were from NY – she’s from Long Island and I’m from Queens – space camp is located in Hunstville, AL, so it was a long way from home. We kept in touch over the years, and she invited me out to visit her when I was about 15 or 16. In high school, I had a difficult time making friends; few of my friends had the same interests and passions as I did. This former counselor introduced me to a different type of board game – I discovered so many cool board games from her in my adventures to visit her. It gave me insight into the fact that I was a gamer geek – and despite the fact that there didn’t seem to be anyone at my all girl’s high school who also liked them – there were other people out there in the world! It gave me hope and it gave me something to seek out when I got to college (and beyond). Now I own over 89 board games and I play regularly with my friends (many of whom are passionate board gamers themselves!). I even have a board game library in my classroom, and I’m considering running an after school board game club for students (though I might wait until next year to start).

Anyway, the principal called us back to order after we’d had a chance to reflect on it as a group and then she previewed some more things that were coming on the agenda. We finished a little bit early, and had time for a bathroom break before heading down to the auditorium for a campus-wide safety meeting.

My new school is one of three schools in the same building, but we’re the only middle school. One of the two high schools used to be affiliated with us (it was originally a 6-12 school), but some years ago, it split into two separate entities. All three schools share certain things like the auditorium, the gym, and the cafeteria, as well as responsibilities like safety. The building safety presentation was almost identical in content to the one at my last school – very intentionally! A few years ago, NYC developed (or began using?) the GRP (general response protocol) so there would be a common language about emergency situations – things like a shelter in, an evacuation (no more fire drills!), and a lock down (both soft and hard), as well as a missing student and door alarm protocol. We were in the (ever hotter!) auditorium for about 35 minutes before we finished with those basics.

Then I headed upstairs and one of my coworkers enlisted me to help set up her computer. I’m pretty tech savvy (I built my own computer when I was a teenager with help from my uncle’s friend), and I hooked up my own work computer, so I was pretty easily able to hook up hers. Our computers are ancient dell desktops. I think that’s my least favorite thing about leaving my last school – the technology downgrade! Maybe I can research some grants and help get us some funding for new/more technology.

Anyway, helping her set up made me a few minutes late to my first 6th grade team meeting. Luckily, I was only one minute late, and other people were later, so I was able to join in the pre-meeting chat before-hand. We talked about homeroom colors (I chose blue because it predominates my wardrobe, so I’ll always be able to wear my homeroom color on those days!), as well as the agenda for 6th graders on day 1. I think it’s cool that we go down and meet them in the gym with a sign with our homeroom number, and we escort them up to our classes where we give them their seats (suggested with a post-it note), and then we have them make name tags to wear all day (that’s in addition to the name tents I’m going to make). They tried to suggest having the same name tent all day, but I vetoed that idea because I plan to collect mine and respond to their comments/questions daily (taking a page out of Sara Van Der Werf’s blog!).

I took notes on my iPad during the meeting (as I always do for myself), and it was noticed by the grade team leader. She stopped by my room later in the afternoon to ask me if I could share my notes with everyone. I said sure, and I created a google folder for us, adding our first agenda (with my minutes), as well as the overview of day 1 that she shared with us.

As we were winding down, someone came in and warned us that the supply closet was closing in thirty minutes, and if we wanted stuff, we should go ASAP! We ended the meeting immediately, and jumped on it. Some teachers really needed to stock up on supplies, but I was pretty well supplied, between the ones I brought with me and the ones that the teacher who had my room before me left for me. However, there were a few key things I got: dry erase markers (those dry up so quickly and they’re always useful!), highlighters (for the activity that Sara Van Der Werf has with 100 numbers), and some replacement tape rolls for the bazillion dispensers I have.

Once we got back to my room with my supplies, my student teacher had questions about the first day with students, so I began to run him through my agenda/plan. I showed him my powerpoint with my “Numbers About me” slides (including one slide about him!), and then I said I wasn’t 100% sure about everything I’m doing yet – especially since I have a double with two classes and I don’t see one of my classes at all! So I’ll need to finalize the plans with him tomorrow.

Then I realized that it was 12:05PM, and the lunch people were going to make us lunch. We interrupted discussing the plan so we could go check out the cafeteria food. It was a campus-wide lunch, so I ran into one of my MfA Master Teachers who I’ve known since the start of my fellowship. The funny small world is that she knew me and another woman who turned out to be the person that my student teacher was told to say hi to for his former high school teacher! So the four of us sat together – both of them work at the high school, so I probably won’t see too much of them during the year, but my friend from MfA said if I ever needed anything to just stop by and ask. Her classroom is one floor below me and near the corner of my quadrant of the building.

We had to rush through lunch because the Jupiter Grades training was at 12:30PM. It was in my 7th grade math teacher colleague’s room, and she was running it. I’m sort of excited to be switching back to using Jupiter Grades because in many ways, it’s more intuitive of a system than Skedula was, but the last time I used it it was still called Snap Grades! So it was very helpful to be walked through the various stages of setting up our grade book and how to make anecdotals for logging behavior (or zeros for missing assignments!). They told us a lot about the way parents interact with the grades website and how to avoid some of the problems that happened at my last school (with students believing inflated grades were “REAL” because you had only entered in five homework assignments so far, so OF COURSE they had 100%, but once they took the first quiz, they had only a 75%!).

I managed to convince her to do a basic google classroom introduction after the jupiter grades training, which was super helpful. I’m not used to either of these programs (my old school used e-chalk and Skedula), so there’s definitely going to be some playing around with both of them this weekend. I’m excited about the way google has everything right there – and how if you store documents in google drive, you can easily link to them in google classroom. I’m going to need to redownload the apps for my laptop, so I can use the folders on my laptop to upload files directly – I’m super excited!

After the digital training, I ran into my 6th grade math colleague, and we decided to meet and discuss the curriculum letter that our “cluster” is sending out. I told her that I liked some of the details from the 7th grade letter, so I asked the 7th grade math department head if we could steal and she said we could take the whole thing if we wanted. One of the members of our team was delegated the task of editing the letter, and she said she would print it out, get copies for us, and get approval from the principal/AP on it.

We started talking about the first few weeks of school (when we do community building and math norms) briefly when my girlfriend arrived at school to help me organize/clean my classroom. So we decided to table our conversation until tomorrow. By now, it’s about 2:45PM.

From 2:45 until about 4:45pm, I was in my room with my girlfriend and my student teacher organizing and putting up some more posters. We unpacked my boxes of board games and loaded them into the cabinet. We reorganized some of the bin locations. We hung up some posters on the walls and bulletin boards and on my filing cabinets. My student teacher is SO much taller than me (and I’m taller than my girlfriend), so it was very helpful to have his assistance in hanging posters! He could stand on a chair and reach places that I would’ve barely reached while standing on a table!

The last task of the day was moving the old furniture that I didn’t want. My predecessor had a GIGANTIC desk as well as a broken down filing cabinet, neither of which I needed. Since the custodial staff hadn’t removed either yet (despite signs on them!), I enlisted my student teacher to help me move them into the hallway (since my principal told me if it’s in the hallway then it’ll get removed more immediately). We moved the filing cabinet and then we were in the midst of moving the desk when the custodians walked by – they stopped us and got a dolly and took the desk away immediately (because god forbid we mess up the newly waxed floor!). So that was a great thing – the desk took up way too much space in my room, and there were ALREADY two desks available for my usage – one with my desktop on it and another one for my ELMO doc cam and other papers and assorted school supplies. Apparently, kids playing around  with school supplies isn’t an issue at my new school – something I found quite surprising (as in, I’m not sure it’s actually true, but I’m hopeful).

On our way out, I saw someone disposing of an old smaller computer desk, so we snagged it (as well as two extra old computers put out to pasture that I might be able to repurpose!). Then I turned the hallway, and I found another student desk, so I snagged that too! My partner and I had to dash after that to get home in time to get the grocery peapod delivery. She came directly home to meet those, while I went to Home Depot to try to get more shoebox size bins. A week ago, they had a sale of five of the steralite bins for cheap, but today the “seasonal” was no longer back to school – now it was Halloween! So I looked in the regular aisle to no avail! My girlfriend recommended waiting until she could go to the container store and get new bins for her shoes and then giving me her current shoe box bins, so we decided to do that. She’s going to come back tomorrow to help me finish organizing one of the closets that hasn’t quite been organized yet.

After I got home from my fruitless Home Depot trip, it was dinner time and we were all starving! We had leftovers from a large family dinner last night, so we just reheated it and ate dinner with my cousin again (he’s staying with us this week). After dinner, I finished copying some files onto my portable hard drive, got some programs for learning Spanish and Hebrew from my cousin, and then did a little bit of work (creating the grade team folder and uploading the minutes I took earlier today).

Afterward, I sat down to type up my blog – which took me over an hour (due to various household distractions!). I need to head to bed because it’s now after 11PM (and 10PM is supposed to be my bedtime!). We have a second full-day of PD tomorrow! I need to be up at 5AM again!

Let’s answer some questions so we can head to bed:

1) Teachers make a lot of decisions throughout the day.  Sometimes we make so many it feels overwhelming.  When you think about today, what is a decision/teacher move you made that you are proud of?  What is one you are worried wasn’t ideal?

I’m proud of deciding to arrive to school over a twenty minutes early and arriving at many of my meetings early. I’m also proud of taking notes at my meetings (and being noticed by the grade team leader). I also raised my hand to share out during the morning PD discussion about the TED talk, and I’m glad I contributed to the conversation and got my principal used to hearing my voice at meetings. I wouldn’t quite use the phrase proud, but I’m definitely happy with the way my classroom is coming together and getting set up. I’m also proud of the decision I made last week to put in for all of my copies in advance so I don’t feel rushed or pressured for Thursday. Though I do need to figure out something to do with my students who have me for a double!

I don’t think I made any poor decisions today – but ask me again on Friday!

2) Every person’s life is full of highs and lows.  Share with us some of what that is like for a teacher.  What are you looking forward to?  What has been a challenge for you lately?

I’m looking forward to the first day of school with my sixth graders at  a new (to me) school. I’m nervous about teaching two grades: that’s two different sets of curriculum to get familiar with, and two sets of lessons to plan. I’ve got four classes this year, which means more students than ever before. On the other hand, from what I understand, the students are more engaged in class, and they’re more interested in the subject to begin with, at my new school.

I also received the feedback from my student surveys last year. I only gave it to my homeroom (because we only needed to give it to one class), and there were certain questions where I wasn’t highly rated that were surprising to me (though the way they give me the feedback in comparison with how they collect the data is honestly confusing!). I think one of the challenges I’m setting for myself (or perhaps it’s more like a goal) is to consciously build relationships with ALL of my students this year and make them feel like I care about them more (because I DO care about them, but clearly, from the survey results, I’m not conveying that to 100% of my students).

3) We are reminded constantly of how relational teaching is.  As teachers we work to build relationships with our coworkers and students.  Describe a relational moment you had with someone recently.

I’m meeting all sorts of new people at my new school – everyone outside of the math department is new to me! On Friday, I was in my classroom preparing/organizing/cleaning when one of my neighbors came by and asked if I had any extra borders. I said sure, how much did she need, and we picked out a border she could have. She offered to pay me, and I declined, saying not to worry about it. She said, “I owe you one” and then today, brought me a bag of chocolates and a thank you note! I borrowed push pins from her today, and I felt comfortable asking her to borrow them.

Also, today, I met a lot of new people, and I started working on their names – I mastered the two cafeteria workers, my custodian, and a few of the teachers I haven’t met yet (plus I practiced some of the teachers I had already met last week).

4) Teachers are always working on improving, and often have specific goals for things to work on throughout a year.  
First post: What is a goal you have for the year?  

I would say I have three main goals for this year:

  1. To learn what topics are taught in the 6th & 7th grade math curriculum at my school. Once I know the topics well, I want to find good problems and good contexts to use to introduce students to the math. I want my students to be solving problems to learn math!
  2. I want to have my students work on convincing each other, and prioritizing talk within the classroom as a tool for learning. I want to work on the kinds of talk at various stages of  the lesson.
  3. I want to work on the close of my lessons, and ensure my pacing is fitting my whole lesson within my 43 minutes!
  4. I want to build relationships with my students.