Friday, August 31, 2012

Gradebooks (updated)

Sat down tonight to play with Excel and see what I could come up with as far as making my own paper gradebook.  I don't use it for recording test scores, I use it for keeping track of homework and weekly review sheets, so I needed something where I could essentially fit a check-mark in the box, but also track attendance with it.  

Thank you to Mrs. Hester for solving my problem for me!  :-D  She created (and shared!) an Excel document that gives me space to track attendance and homework assignments in the same place.  I tweaked it a little so that I can fit my class of 28 onto one page (and just hope that that class doesn't get any bigger or I'll be in trouble).  Tuesday when I am back at work, I will have to find time to print all these pages and run out to Staples to get it ready for Thursday (spiral bind it and laminate the cover).

Huge huge thanks to all the wonderful bloggers who share their stuff so we don't have to start from scratch. :)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Isn't it pretty ??  :)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Advice Needed

Ok, I'm in desperate need of some advice.  The last 3 years I have taught Geometry in this order:
1.  Logic
2.  Pts, lines and planes
3.  Angles, parallel lines with transversals
4.  Triangles

While I am happy with the logic materials I have put together, the math blogosphere has shown me that I could do a much better job with it.  I thought that by moving Logic to after Triangles (and before proofs) that I could have more geometric context for logic and utilize sentences that use geometry instead of the nonsense sentences I use now.  Yesterday I rearranged my first month of lessons and was thinking to myself, "self, you're doing a good thing!"  However, one of my colleagues pointed out that in the Triangle unit, we teach the Pythagorean Theorem and its converse and that I need the kids to have logic first.  

My question(s) to you is:  In what order do you teach Geometry?  Is it imperative that the students see logic and its vocabulary before seeing the Converse of the Pythagorean Theorem?  (or will they survive just fine without that context?)

Thank you in advance for your feedback.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Tough Days

Tough days... we all have them as teachers... we deal in a human occupation and so there is no way around them!  Our days are impacted by how our lessons go, how our students react, administrative treatment, etc.  On the worst days it can sometimes be hard to remember why you should keep going and come back to work the next day.  (I know I have had those days!)

In order to cope with those bad days, I usually start by sitting down and having a good cry.  Yep, I'm one of those people.  Then, I go across the hall to my friend C and vent about what went wrong (and how to fix it in the future) and let her tell me how wonderful I am (the compliments always help!).  I also keep positive notes from parents, students, etc. handy to read when I'm feeling like I am a horrible teacher.  Those help to put things in perspective for me.

Once I get home, I don't do any schoolwork that night.  I make myself some dinner, spend time with some trashy TV shows and with my husband.  Helps me unwind and forget about the day and get up the next morning refreshed.

In spite of the occasional bad day, I feel so blessed to be able to work in a job where every day is different and where I enjoy going to work.

Great Ideas 2

I was going through my GIANT bookmarks list trying to review what I have, what I can use, etc.  Again, I want to keep all the amazing ideas I've been finding on fellow math teacher blogs in one place so I can actually find them and reference them.

In teaching a two-year A2T course, I am always looking for fun/different ways to review material.  Lisa has provided a whole bunch of options for reviewing polynomials and exponents.  This is particularly wonderful since our first unit this year in A2TB (the second-half of the course) will review exponent rules.  My favorites are the Match Puzzle and the Polynomial Cubes.

A2T has tons of graphing in it and focuses a lot on the shifts of these graphs.  Yet again, Lisa has put together an amazing resource for A2T--matching equations to the graph to the written description of the transformation.  This is wonderful!

Shireen has absolutely amazing ideas.  I have utilized several of her ideas in the past couple of years.  Here is one I found, but never ended up using, which was such a shame because we started using GeoGebra last year!  I enjoy using GeoGebra with my class, but it takes forever to create quality labs for the kids to use.  This Circle Equations one would be a great way for the kids to explore equations of circles instead of me just giving it to them.

I like the idea of having students explore online to find information on surface area and volume.  I have found that there is a lot of resistance when trying something new like this, but is an activity I need to keep in mind for this coming spring when we get to this topic.

I might have to combine this with the above idea for surface area & volume.  I like the idea of having the students cut out the nets of the 3-D shapes.  The kids could then tape them into their notebooks, but leaving parts free so that they could fold them up as they need to.  Also like the idea of hanging these in the classroom.

I love sharing student work, and Kate's door definitely does that!  I like this idea, but definitely need to re-work it for my kids.

Edna Lee posted this idea last year and I absolutely love it!  I love the idea of using a QR code for back-to-school night information (include my email address and the link to my new website Math with Mrs. Riley)  I should look into this before back-to-school night this year.

Not an idea stolen from a blog, but a neat idea to demonstrate the Pythagorean Theorem to my 10th graders.

I love teaching logic, and although I have spent the last 3 years tweaking my homework assignments, I am nervous about teaching it this year.  In the past, I have done it after factoring (which I know are totally unrelated) but in our curriculum, logic is one of those weird 2-day lessons that doesn't really connect to much else.  I am considering changing it at the 11th hour (and thus affecting all my copies I already made and the 3 other Geometry teachers), and covering Points, Lines and Planes first and then using that information to help us with logic.  I have about a week to decide what to do....

Another great idea for logic.  I really may have to re-do my first month of teaching (and all my review sheets).  Kate also included the cards she used--simply AMAZING!

Converse, Inverse, Contrapositive
And... even more logic.  Thinking this might need to be held off on until we make the big switch to Common Core.  But absolutely love the idea of how each statement must be carefully weighed and considered or your diagrams will vary.

crstn85 is at it again.  I love the idea of having students complete this task as an introduction to triangles instead of starting with boring vocabulary and definitions.  I will definitely follow-up with definitions--perhaps I will give that as homework and have them color in class.  Coloring always goes over well!

Whew... I think that is enough for today!  There is such a wealth of ideas out there.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


For the last 3 years I have pretty much used the same organization system and it seems to work (most of the time).  Unfortunately, all my stuff is at school, so no pictures tonight.  

Next to my door is a bulletin board for absent students--there is a folder for each class and at the end of each class, I place what the student missed in that folder along with a short checklist detailing what they have missed.  

The color of the folder on the absence board also corresponds to the colored folders for all other uses in my classes.  I keep two 2-pocket folders per class--one for collecting work to be graded and one for owed tests and quizzes.  These folders, along with a manila folder per class (labeled in the corresponding color) to hold that day's worksheets, all sit in a desk organizer on my front table.  

6 slots = 1 slot per class + 1 last one for 
owed tests/quizzes folders for all classes

In addition to this, I use my bottom desk drawer to organize my copies for upcoming classes--I try to keep copied about a week ahead of time for Geometry (this will be my 4th year teaching it, and I have taught 3 different courses of it) and when possible, a week ahead for my modified A2T course, but this doesn't always happen.  I try to count out the copies I need for each section for my Geometry sections (I have 3 of them) and paperclip them together.  That way, in the morning, I can just grab the copies I need for that day.

I am also a HUGE HUGE fan of lists... can't get enough of them!!  So I use those list pads from Michael's dollar bins to create weekly (sometimes daily) to-do lists.  

I don't use my plan book at all--I instead make monthly calendars (I like to see the big picture).  I also have never found a calendar that actually uses the whole sheet of paper without borders, so I hand-draw mine with a ruler and marker.  

While this method isn't perfect--I still am not sure what to do with things like seating charts or homeroom stuff--it has been working pretty well so far.  

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Great Ideas

The new math blogger initiative has allowed me to find a TON of new blogs to follow.  I'm already at 70 blogs (including food and craft ones, family ones, etc) and I have only added one set of the new blogs that have been covered.  Already I have found a few ideas that mesh with my curriculum or will solve some of the issues I have been having in my classroom.  Right now, I have great ideas bookmarked in my internet browser and starred in my Google Reader and pinned on Pinterest.  I plan to compile them all here so that I have one place to go to for these good ideas.

Linear Functions Foldable:
I love love love foldables.  I started using them 2 years ago with my Geometry students and the kids really took to them.  I never pre-print or fold them for the kids--it gives them a nice break from taking notes to fold the paper (and it's a great exercise in listening and following directions).  Linear functions are always a challenge and I love Kelly's idea of using a 5 section foldable for the topic.  I could use this for both my Geometry and Algebra 2 kids.

Backwards Inverse Functions:
I teach a 2-year A2T course, so my kids tend to be weaker with their math skills, but it allows me to be more flexible and responsive to their needs.  Over the last 2 times teaching inverses, I have noticed the students struggle with this topic.  One of the things we always do is to teach the students to switch x and y first, then solve for y.  I like the idea of solving for x as the initial way to introduce this topic--it's just algebra, not a fancy confusing process.  And I LOVE Emily's comics.

Homework Quizzes:
For the last 3 years I have simply graded homework on completion.  I like that it doesn't create a ton more grading for me (almost 30 kids per class adds up quickly) and that it supports the idea that homework is for practice and growth.  However, I don't think that I get great results from this--often the homework assignments have things written down for each problem, but I don't really get a sense for the quality of the work.  Other teachers in my department have said that they have noticed the quality of the homework increase dramatically when collecting work.  I have been searching for a quality solution to finding a balance between mountains of grading and simply glancing over homework.  A recent comment (vanvleettv's) on Sarah's post about the first week seemed like the best of both worlds--homework quizzes!  This is something I can easily put together by copy-pasting work I have already done and will give me an opportunity to more closely examine my students' work.

I'm sure as I read more posts from "new" bloggers that I'll find tons more great ideas.

Friday, August 17, 2012


Last year our district officially switched to using PowerSchool for our online grade book.  I fully support using an online grade book and giving students (and parents) ready access to their grade information.  There certainly are pro's and con's to this system of constant information, not the least of which is that I am nagged regularly by students if their grades are not updated instantly (we have up to 3 weeks to update).  

Anyways... In the beginning of last year, I tried to go totally embrace the new system and go totally paperless.  I hate the paper grade books the school issues us (they never have enough or big enough boxes) and it seemed to me to be silly to keep 2 different grade books.  The problem was that I couldn't remember who of my 28 kids per class did all their homework, half their homework or none of it, by the time I got back to the front of the room and to my desktop to input this data.  (I check homework based on apparent effort, ie, did you try all the problems?  did you only do half the assignment?)  The other issue came with late assignments--I couldn't remind the students about them when I chatted with them while checking homework because I didn't have documentation of who owed me what.  Needless to say, my old paper grade book came back out to be used--but biggest issue still was not having enough space in it.  I couldn't mark attendance in addition to homework grades and I like to see whether a kid was absent, late, etc when they are missing assignments.  

Here I am, about to start a new school year, and still am not sure what to do about recording grades.  The obvious (albeit absurdly expensive) solution would be to purchase a tablet and input their grades right into PowerSchool as I check homework.  Unfortunately, I can't afford to do that.  Some of my colleagues print the weekly grids from PowerSchool and just put it in a clipboard and at the end of the week dispose of that single sheet of paper - not  a horrible idea.  I could continue to use my school issued paper grade book.  I am also playing with the idea of creating my own paper grade book in Excel--making it legal sized and allowing for a line between each student's name for keeping track of attendance.  

How do you record your grades?  Have you switched to an entirely computer based system?  Are you still using paper?  Do you make your own grade book?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Why "A Year of Growth"?

Teaching is all about growth and change.  The students we see are typically different annually, the curriculum is always changing, the student grow throughout our one year of time with them, and we also grow and change.  I titled this blog "A Year of Growth" because I wanted to remind myself that each and every year is an opportunity to grow; to grow as an instructor, to grow as a mentor, to grow as an individual.  In my first three years, I have seen myself grow and change significantly in my teaching.  I believe my patience has increased (always important when dealing with 10th grade boys), I believe that I am more open to new techniques for my teaching.  My homework assignments and notes have grown--while I still teach in a very traditional format, I believe that many of my materials have improved over the last 3 years.  We have the unique opportunity as educators to reflect on the year(s) before and to grow as professionals and start fresh in September.  

I decided to start this blog three years ago as a way to keep track of all the marvelous things that happen inside a classroom; whether it was a student saying something funny or a great lesson.  Unfortunately, I have never been confident in my writing and the joys/labors of teaching always seemed to get in the way.  I have also been a math blog lurker for the last 3 years--getting great ideas for worksheets/lessons/etc from this amazing community.  I have shared posts with my colleagues when I have found good ideas that weren't specific to my content and believe that this is the best professional development I have had over the last 3 years (even if the district doesn't count it).  My hope is that this year I will do a better job of documenting my year of growth, even if it is just posting once a week.  By documenting what I do, it should allow me to see my changes and reflect on the good and bad of the year.