Archive for August, 2016

Let’s talk assessment. I use a lot of tech tools for formative assessment. The kids love them; I get immediate feedback and all of the tools I use allow me to download the information so I can track results. That’s a win-win in my book!

I love using the short answer question on Socrative. I can throw a question to my students during the lesson and let them show me their understanding of the topic. I always project the results on the board anonymously. Students love to see their thoughts made public in our classroom and because I don’t post names, they are free to take risks. Watching a student read someone else’s answer and then revise their thoughts is amazing. This app also allows you to create exit tickets. Each exit ticket has three questions: how well did you understand (mc), summarize what you learned, and answer the teacher’s question. (Write one on the board beforehand or ask one.) All results are shown on the teacher’s screen in chart form.



Kahoot is hands-down my students’ favorite tool. They will beg me to do a Kahoot if it has been a while. I have reservations about this one. The timed feature severely limits what types of questions I can ask, and speed is rewarded over perseverance. How do I teach them that the struggle and the process are more important than the product and then do a Kahoot? They love it though so we do use it periodically.



Quizizz is very similar to Kahoot but instead of being teacher-led, each student plays on his or her device and moves on when ready. You can turn off the timer and the leaderboard to take the element of competition away. After answering a question, a funny meme pops up, which the kids love. Quizizz includes the option to assign a quiz for homework. I rarely have an issue getting students to do their homework when I use this app.



Plickers works well for classrooms that are not 1:1, as the only device needed is one smartphone. This is another game my students beg to play, even though my classroom is 1:1. I create multiple choice or T/F questions and display them on the board through the Plickers site. Each student has a card glued into the back of their notebook and holds it up with the correct letter facing up. I use my phone to scan the cards. As each card is scanned, that student receives a check, so I know who I missed. My phone tells me who got it right and who needs more help, but that information is not posted on the board.


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The last tool I use regularly is Google Forms. Did you notice they just added a Quiz feature? In the past, I have used Forms with Flubaroo to grade and return them, but the Quiz feature makes it even easier. If you click on the settings gear, it gives you the option to turn already created forms into quizzes. How slick is that? I am anxious to give it a try when we return to school. Have you used it yet? Do you like it?
Which tech tool is your favorite way to assess? Please vote below and leave a comment on which you chose and why. Is there one I’m missing? I’d love to hear about it!


I sent out a call a couple of weeks ago asking for guests to write a post for this blog. Thanks to the wonders of social media, I had several people offer to help me out. I have saved the posts and will be adding them to my blog in the next few weeks. Today’s post is from Dave Henry of I Want to Love Math. He is a Math Educator, lifelong professional businessman, self-taught harpist, and blogger who desires to show everyone how to enjoy Math and to recognize the advantage of a good Math education. His hobbies include watching college and professional sports, taking nature photos, and enjoying walks during the quiet morning hours. Thanks for sharing your insights with us Dave!

Empty street cafe

As I was walking this morning in my neighborhood, my mind was filled with thoughts that geometric shapes are everywhere!  Do you agree?  Gazing at sidewalks, homes, street signs, and security lights, I saw shapes of rectangles, trapezoids, triangles, octagons, and even circles and spheres!   Try it sometime, you’ll be amazed how many hundreds of shapes you see each and every day!

For today, let’s take a look at the clock.  Other than public buildings, such as schools and medical offices, do you have a clock in your home?  Our society has quickly replaced wristwatches with digital forms of knowing the time on cell phones, tablets, computers, and other electronic devices.  Most of them are not displayed in the shape of a circle, but are digital.  Perhaps some of you reading this right now never learned the time of day by reading a clock, but have been exposed to only digital displays of time.


There are some easy lessons to learn from the clock.  What traditional shape is a clock?  It is a circle, isn’t it?  If you are not familiar, there are numbers from 1 through 12 on the clock, and we use it to measure all 24 hours in the day.  The hands on the clock spin around quickly, quietly, and smoothly.  From the 12 to the 1, the hour hand indicates that 1 hour has just passed.  From the 12 to the 3, the hour hand has moved 3 hours.  From the 12 to the 9, the hour hand has moved 9 hours.  Each day, there are 2 times that it is 1 o’clock, 1:00am and 1:00pm.  There are also 2 times each and every day it is 6 o’clock, and 7 o’clock, and 8 o’clock,…etc.

The natural movement of the hands on a clock to the right is called clockwise.  If the hands were to move in the opposite direction, it is called counter-clockwise.  When you assemble furniture, or repair your car, it is common for the instructions to guide you to turn the tool clockwise or perhaps counter-clockwise.

For the purpose of our lesson, we have assumed that our clock is a circle.  How many degrees are in a circle?  That’s right!  There are 360 degrees in a circle.  Since there are 360 degrees in the entire circle, and there are 12 hours in the circle, how many degrees are in each hour?  We divide 360 degrees by 12, and the answer is 30 degrees.  We know that for each hour that passes, there are 30 degrees that have passed also, each day, every day, all day long.

Since we know there are 30 degrees in each hour, we can also determine how many degrees there are in either direction from one hour to another on the clock.  Yes, we can do it both clockwise and counter-clockwise!

 Let’s try a few examples:

1.) How many degrees does the clock travel clockwise from 1 o’clock to 4 o’clock?


* There are 3 hours from 1 o’clock to 4 o’clock
* We know there are 30 degrees each hour.
* Simply calculate the product of 3 x 30 = 90 degrees.

That is correct!  There are 90 degrees from 1 o’clock to 4 o’clock.

 2.) How many degrees are there from 5 o’clock to 1 o’clock going counter-clockwise?


* There are 4 hours from 5 o’clock to 1 o’clock.
* Remember there are 30 degrees per hour.
* Calculate the product of 4 x 30 = 120 degrees.

You are correct, once again!  There are 120 degrees from 5 o’clock to 1 o’clock.

3.) Let’s do #2 again, but this time we need to calculate the number of degrees from 5 o’clock to 1 o’clocktraveling clockwise.


* There are 8 hours from 5 o’clock to 1 o’clock.
* Use the 30 degrees per hour measurement once again.
* Multiply 8 x 30 = 240 degrees.

That’s right!  You are quickly mastering your knowledge of the degrees in a clock!

 Try a few of these on your own!  They are fun and very practical!  Don’t forget to share this great information with a family member or friend!

I spent the last ten years using the school-provided planner and grade book. You know the one I’m talking about. Ugly brownish-red cover, boring green grade sheets and please tell me who can plan anything in those tiny boxes? The colors alone are enough to get a girl down. I teach algebra. To special education students. I need some color and pretty things on my desk to get me through when the going gets rough!

Last year I ditched the school stuff. I found Teachers Pay Teachers several years ago but never thought to pretty up my planner. A few misses later, I found exactly what I was looking for.

April, of A Modern Teacher, creates and sells planners that are designed to fill any need a teacher could possibly have. Seriously, this woman has thought of everything. I counted 26 different patterns, each with over 600 pages that can be downloaded as PDFs or opened in PowerPoint and edited.

After much agonizing, I chose the Purple Paisley, because, well, Purple. And Paisley. Enough said. I chose several sections to include in my planner and then took at a look at her lesson planning pages. Be still my heart! Any combination I could dream up is there. Want the subjects on the top and the days on the side? You got it. More of a days on the top, subjects on the side kind of person? She’s got that too. Five classes? Fine. Eight? You bet, and everything in between. Here’s a peek at mine from last year. My school has a punch for the planners they hand out so it was a simple matter to print out what I wanted and hole punch it to fit in the planner.

I love the way this turned out. Everything I needed was in one place, keeping me organized  and stylish. Go me! This year, I decided to ditch the ugly cover. Sure some teachers put stickers on it, or spell their name out in pretty puffy letters, but they fall off, or get caught on things and tear off. Too fussy for this girl. The Arc Notebook System by Staples caught my eye several months ago. It is a completely customizable system that uses discs to hold specially punched paper. The lines are clean, I can choose a pretty cover, and make it as big (or as small) as I want. But would it work? It would be an investment as I would need to buy the special whole punch to use it. Plus all the parts. The whole thing got pushed to the back of my mind until Sarah Carter blogged about it here and here. She has never steered me wrong before so I wandered over to Staples to look a little more closely. When I realized that my 30% off Staples Products coupon would work on the Arc system, I caved and bought everything I needed, including the hole punch. A Math=Love recommendation and a coupon? Well, that’s a done deal as far as I am concerned! I started printing out my planner and setting it up, but not before agonizing again. Did I want to keep the purple paisley? Or choose a different design? I get overwhelmed easily when presented with too many choices but I managed to narrow it down to just three. In the end, I decided the paisley was still my favorite so I kept it. Did I mention April includes free updates? There is a brand new calendar for the upcoming school year all fresh and ready to go. It really doesn’t get any better than this! She even gives video demos.


I spent the next week or so happily printing and organizing my new planner. I chose a clear Arc notebook cover to show off the pretty planner cover, and clear tabbed dividers to separate the sections. I bought regular 3-hole punched clear dividers and prepunched them with the Arc punch. Worked like a charm! I am in love, love, love with my new planner. Take a look and tell me if you agree!


These pages are all editable. We run on ten week quarters so I increased the number of columns so that I can fit five weeks on each page. Then I did the same thing for the Gradebook pages.

Prefer the days at the top? Need more subject areas? She has every arrangement you can think of included.

I found these great parent contact pages from Teaching with a Touch of Twang. Even better, they are a free download. Find them here. Interested in the Completed Call Logs sheet? That one’s mine and you can download it here. I assigned each class its own section and color to keep me organized. Word makes it easy to change the color of the table.

As a special education teacher, I touch base with my students regularly. It’s helpful to be able to glance at a page and see when they have study hall or lunch. I created this page too. You can get it here.

My sped department tracks students by class to help us organize them when midterm and finals roll around. Each teacher is asked to put all their IEP and 504 students on this form and send us a copy to file. Our old form was a mess, so two years ago I created a cleaner version with check boxes. It’s easy to fill out, and a great tool for teachers to ensure that students are getting their accommodations and modifications. You can download your own copy here. I also created a page to list all the students I have to test during the school year. If you are interested, it’s here.

Amazing, right?! Want to make your own planner as beautiful as mine? You can find her store here. The planners are all here. The Purple Paisley I fell in love with is here. Make sure you stop by her blog and show her some love.





#MTBoSBlaugust – Day 4

Last year I used memes to go over classroom rules in an effort to improve my cool factor. We’ve all seen them floating around the internet, and they are usually good for a giggle (or a groan when they hit too close to home, or in this case, classroom). Unfortunately, the ones that make me laugh the hardest are completely not ok for school. Oddly enough, most involve wine and sarcasm. I’m talking about the memes. Not me. Okay, maybe me. Okay, so me. But I digress.

I decided to choose my favorites, put them together in a sweet slide presentation and go for it. Did they love it? Absolutely. It was a fun way to get through something that’s b-o-r-i-n-g. Did it make me the Queen Bee? Maybe for all of about five minutes. But I’m good with that.

Here is my Classroom Rules Memes presentation. I do not know who created most of them, and they are almost impossible to trace back to an author. If any of these are yours, or you know the original creator, please let me know so I can give proper credit. Some of the slides are my own (at this point I can’t remember which ones). I don’t usually show them all, though I did when we reviewed them last spring. I think they thought I was holding out on them!


Want your own copy? Download it here. Interested in creating your own memes? My favorite site is here. Do you use memes with your students?




First Week Ideas

Posted: August 3, 2016 in Uncategorized

#MTBoSBlaugust – Day 3

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I spent the last two days participating in the 2016 SEMI High Tech U – Teacher Edition.

SEMI High Tech U Teacher Edition gives classroom educators the unique opportunity to have a two-day, hands-on learning experience about microelectronics and the alternative energy industry. It provides practical applications of math, science and technology for classroom instruction and curriculum. Modules are taught by industry professionals who volunteer their time and present research-based curriculum.

We started with a survey about our knowledge of nanotechnology (mine was nonexistent!) and a personality skills assessment. Out of six different traits, I scored highly in three of them, and almost not at all in the other three. The definitions, for many of us, were spot on. After breaking us into groups according to our most dominant trait, we completed a jigsaw. As I thought about the activity, I wondered how I could use this in my classroom. How helpful would it be to know our students’ dominant traits? Think about it. We could group them homogeneously by trait, with each group assigned a task best suited to their personalities. Even better, we could assign them heterogeneously, using their traits to create groups with a solid mix which should create some great collaboration and discussions. An understanding of their personalities will give students insights into strengths and ideas for future careers. This just seems like a win-win all the way around and is definitely being added to my list of things to do that first week of school. Interested in trying this in your classroom? The program facilitators agreed to let me share their materials with you! Find the assessment here and the trait descriptions here. In case you were wondering, my top three were investigative, conventional and enterprising in that order. My abysmal scores for artistic, realistic and social confirmed that I am a non-athletic, not very creative introvert; which, as anyone who knows me will agree, is a pretty apt description! Take the test and see where you fall. I’d love to hear your results. Are they as accurate as mine?

#MTBoSBlaugust – Day 2

Ah, unit conversions. How many pints are there in a gallon? Cups in a quart? Feet in a mile? These skills are taught, per Common Core, in 5th and 6th grade. The only mention of them in Algebra 1 is in the Number & Quantity section where it states:

Reason quantitatively and use units to solve problems.

Shouldn’t be a huge problem, right? Right? Wrong! It seems every year I spend way too much time teaching and reteaching unit conversions to my students. That almighty decimal point really has the power to mess with their heads. My students are not the only ones who struggle with this concept. I took this photo at a local gas station last month. I don’t think I will be buying much gas here!

My co-teacher loves to use an example from a local gas station. The sign out front said,

Two hotdogs for .1¢

This always leads to wonderful discussions about decimals and unit conversions. Even big companies fall down over unit conversions. Listen to the following clip from a customer’s argument with Verizon over the cost of data used while in Canada.

Do your students hate this concept as much as mine do? How do you handle it?

Ready, Set, Blog!

Posted: August 1, 2016 in Uncategorized

#MTBoSBlaugust – Day 1

Last time I tried to participate in an MTBoS blogging activity, I crashed and burned very quickly. My goal is to stay with this one all the way through to the end. Realistically, if I post more than once during this challenge, I will have doubled my previous efforts, but where’s the fun in that? If you read my About Me page, you know that is just not my style. I am definitely a go big or go home kind of gal. So, my goal is to blog something every single day. I can’t think of a better way to ease the transition back into the classroom.

So what am I hoping to get out of this? I’m looking for great ideas, new friends, tips, trends and lots of collaboration. I am a special education teacher who is also certified in math. Collaboration is what I do. Being able to do it with a whole new group of people makes it even better! One of my grad school teachers has said several times, “You get out of it what you put into it.” I have wholeheartedly taken his advice and plunged into both blogging and Twitter with wild abandon. Now I just need to keep up the pace.