Sunday, August 12, 2018

#MTBoSBlaugust Designing a plan for student success

"Success Criteria" has been a topic of interest in my district since we moved to our current evaluation model. We have had many conversations about what it is and how we use it. Success criteria is how you know if a student is successful on a learning target. Last year I experimented with giving students a problem, and telling them "You know you've got this when you can successfully complete this problem." I was very surprised that it really motived some of my students. I did this in Geometry and I chose problems that were pretty challenging and required a solid understanding of the skills. This was not the place for open-ended problems, rather it was a clean way for students to know if they were understanding the basic skills.

Fast forward to this summer, and I have decided to create a success criteria page for each chapter. I have designed the chapter 1 divider for student notebooks (I have remodeled this thing 5 times within the last week, so I will probably change it again.) I included the chapter vocabulary and learning objectives.
Chapter 1 Divider

From there I began working on my success criteria handout. I chose problems that if a student has mastered the skill, they will be able to complete. I started by writing out the learning targets for the first chapter, and from there I compiled a list of problems that represented those learning targets. Their assessment will have two parts. Students will be given a skills-based assessment that is similar to their success criteria page. The students will then have a non-traditional assessment that will cover the skills on the success criteria but will be higher level thinking. These will be problem-solving tasks. Each student will have their own set of problems but they will be able to discuss them within their groups. Students will be asked to create problems, show mastery, and complete non-Googleable tasks. The goal of the success criteria is to show students what they are working toward. It gives them a concrete example to use as their tests for success. I will be writing these on the board on the days that we are covering them, and showing them to students. I believe that this is more relateable to students than a learning objective can be - it provides students with a visual of the learning target and makes it attainable to them.

I also saw this tweet from Brittny Schjolin which led me to Laura Wheeler's Course Packs. I created one for Chapter 1 of my class. She did hers by topic/standard. This year I'm going to let my book guide my progression (though I use activities from many many other places, and I may update this for next year to be a more whole year overview). I haven't decided how I'm going to use it yet. She uses it as a place to record their learning after doing VNPS (Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces). I also use VNPS in my classroom - though not as effectively as Laura.

Algebra 1 Chapter Dividers - Only Chapter 1 is currently done, but this is a Google Doc and will update as I work through the rest of my chapters. (The joys of teaching a course for the first time)

Algebra 1 Chapter 1 Success Criteria

Algebra 1 Course Pack (only Ch1 is done)

Friday, August 10, 2018

#MTBoSBlaugust Planning the First Day of School #alg1chat

FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL 2018 in Algebra I

DAY 1 is Tuesday, September 4th, 2018 and is fast approaching!
This week will be all about getting to know the students and setting the stage for this class. I plan to do many things 

Feedback Name Tents

I found this last year from Sara VanDerWerf and loved it. On one side the students use it as a name tent, and on the other, the students have a chance to write privately to the teacher. It gave me the opportunity to get to know the students. 

Strengths and Weaknesses Notecards

The next thing that I will do is give each student a notecard and have specific questions for them to answer about how they learn, their strengths, interests, and an opportunity to share any reasons why they may struggle in math class. A district teacher turned technology coach in my district shared this with me and that she was able to use this information all year. I'm also adding that they put their birthday on it, I will organize them by birthday so that I can wish them happy birthday when it comes up! This one is new for me this year.

Guess Who? Get to know You game

This game was shared with me from a middle school teacher in the district. She had many of my incoming freshmen as 8th graders. She said the students regularly requested to play this game when there was extra time in class, and that it greatly improved her relationships with students. The students respond to a variety of questions/statements and then the teacher chooses a few to read out loud and the class guesses the student. I'm excited about this one! I will share the file one it's available.

TEAM Placement Activity

I am incredibly excited about this task! Students will evaluate expressions and get into groups based on their answers. There are 8 sets of four equivalent expression cards. Once students get into groups they will turn over their expressions sheet and work on Four 4's from


Students will complete the back of their name tent. I will encourage them to ask me a question and tell me a statement about their first math class. Last year students did not write much the first day or two. Some left it blank. My goal this year is to provide them with a few prompts and tell them to choose one to respond to or write about something else, but that they need to write something thoughtful.


I will pass out the syllabus to students, with an attached sheet of websites for them to register for. 

The rest of week 1 for Algebra I is coming soon!

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Algebra Task Series: Expression Race Track

I recently attended the MCTM conference in Grand Rapids, MI. This was my first time attending a math conference, and I'm hooked. The presenters were amazing, I'll be blogging about what I learned and takeaways later. I picked up the book Tasks & Competencies in the Teaching & Learning of Algebra by Alex Friedlander and Abraham Arcaavi while at the conference and started reading it on a trip to South Carolina. I created and modified tasks shared in the book to work in my Algebra Classes. I will be posting articles sharing these activities using the label "Algebra Task Series".

The first task shared in the book is "The Racing Track: A Substitution Game." You can find an excerpt of this task with a quick Google search. This is a perfect beginning of the year, week 1 activity for Algebra 1. It reviews substitution, the order of operations, and integer rules. All of these concepts are in my textbook in the first chapter. I modified the game and created it in publisher (file links listed below). I will be printing onto 11x17 paper and be laminating. I kept most of the expressions listed but changed some of the four corners.

I already have dice in my classroom, but I am ordering these game pieces that I will be able to use for a variety of games in my classroom. 

I'll be using this activity to introduce Desmos to my students. I will have them hand calculate the expressions and then check using Desmos. 

Expression Race Track PDF

Expression Race Track - Publisher

Monday, July 23, 2018

Summer is for reflection, and setting up online accounts

Hello! and Welcome to my blog! I am very excited to be blogging again. I did not blog last year, except for a few attempts early in the year and I did not make time for it after that. I missed blogging so much! You can find my original blog here. I'm in a new position from that blog and a new district, so I'm making this a fresh start! I hope you enjoy!

Over this summer I have been teaching at the Chemic Challange! A summer school program that is designed for students to experience problem-solving and critical thinking beyond standard instruction. It's a 4-week program that includes art, robotics, Breakout Edu, cooking, and more. I taught lessons on using Ozobots and we did a GooseChase! I have also been taking 3 online classes, which I am almost done with, woohoo!! I presented at a conference "Techtastic II", attended a few trainings, and I'm going to MCTM Conference next week! It's my first MCTM conference and I'm really looking forward to it. I missed out on MACUL this year and realized that I need to be there next year. It re-energizes me each year and I didn't realize how much it brought out my passion.

Every summer I spend time reflecting over the systems and tools I used last year, make changes moving forward, and create the accounts that I will need on any online accounts. That way it is ready once school starts. I also email the links out to students and parents once I have my class lists, with an introductory video I make and have a handout version ready to go for the open house as well. I'm still working on this but will post when it's ready.

As of right now I plan on using the following tools and have made class accounts for each of my classes... Bonus, all of these are FREE with the exception of Moodle and I do pay for Quizlet (but you don't need to). Truth be told I made some of them before school got out once I was given my schedule (why put off what can be done today):

This is an amazing tool that lets you randomly choose groups, create a tournament bracket, has an amazing jeopardy template, and other learning games as well. They continue to add more things and expand. It's a tool I use weekly.

This is a great tool that provides practice on a wide variety of math concepts. This is perfect for a high school math classroom. I have used it in both Algebra I and Geometry and will be using it in Algebra II this year.

Remind is a tool that lets you communicate directly with parents and students through email and text messages.

I did purchase the teacher account for Quizlet. I like to be able to upload my own pictures and have student data to look at. I use this tool often for review and in-class activities. Also, for Quizlet I only create one class for each prep. So I have one Algebra I and one Algebra II. This has met my needs for now. If at any point I find the need to have an individual one for each course I will make those.

This will be my first year using Moodle. Our district just updated the site and is investing in the creation of blended learning courses. I'm excited to learn the software. I have started building my courses for this. I have made a page for each chapter/unit of study, I have uploaded a link to my syllabus (a Google Doc that I am still working on), and other links that will be relevant to them.

Some other tools I'm exploring but haven't finalized and would love feedback on are:


I use other tech tools as well that don't require student logins or joining a class. I use Kahoot, Quizizz, Desmos, Graspable Math, GeoGebra, Screencastify,  and so many more that it would take me hours to think of them all, and I would still forget some. I will be highlighting the tools that I use each week in my classroom and be sharing any activities that I create.

#MTBoSBlaugust Designing a plan for student success

"Success Criteria" has been a topic of interest in my district since we moved to our current evaluation model. We have had many...