Thursday, March 5, 2015

What a crazy school year! Interactive journals can bring you calm!

We are in week 25 of this school year, and I have not posted anything all school year!  Our math teks changed this year, and I feel like I am planning day to day.  I have done so much more work at home this year!  I keep telling myself that next year will be a better pace, and I won't need to do so much at home (with a new baby on the way, we will be busy enough).

I got very comfortable with the material I was teaching.  I was always creating new things and changing things up to keep things fresh, but with the new material, I am now required to create new materials.  It is has been exhausting trying to find and create things that keep my kids engaged, but the end result is so worth it.

I have never been one to just open a textbook and start teaching. I like for my kids to be a part of the learning experience.  Last year, I started using an interactive journal.  I will NEVER go back to teaching with just notes.  It is amazing how I can adapt notes into a foldable, and the kids are engaged the whole class.  It is all about the presentation.

All the required changes this year have allowed me to create and use and some great materials.  I love it when the kids tell me that although we are busy, they enjoy learning math this way.  They say it doesn't feel as though they are just being told what to do.  Many love being creative with their journals, while others are content with just getting the information down.

If you are new to interactive journals, I recommend looking at the interactive journal pack created by Runde's Room.  It is a great way to get started.

When we begin a new unit, I put the learning goal on the screen for the kids to write down as they come in.  I have a file through my google drive in which I put all my journal entries.  The google drive allows me to quickly share my files with the other 8th grade math teacher.  They color code the topic. At the beginning of the year, we created a list with the 4 topics and color coded each one.  The topics relate to our reporting categories.

After writing the learning goal, the kids write what they know about the topic.  I tell them that it is okay if they don't know anything.  I require my kids to write in complete sentences, so the journal is also a great way to help their writing skills.

After we create the foldable, we put it in the journal.  Some entries may take a few pages.  Once the lesson is complete, the students will go back and write what they learned (again using complete sentences).  The final steps involve creating a proof (a problem to be solved) and a reflection (a creative way to illustrate the concept).
This is a print-out of the learning goal shown on the screen.

The students also update the table of contents with the addition of each entry. The table of contents is also color coded.
Snapshot of the table of contents page

When the kids take the six weeks test, I grade the journals.  I create a rubric based on the entries we completed that six weeks.  With each six weeks, the journals get better and better.

The finished product will be a great tool that can assist them next year.  With all the new algebra additions to our teks, this journal should prove to be very handy next year!

Although we journaled last year, the change of all the teks forced me to step up my game, and I think our journal is so MUCH better this year.  I am excited to see the finished product.  I create a journal for each class, so I may hold a drawing for some lucky students and give away my journals!

I hope the school year has not been too overwhelming.  If it becomes too much, hop on pinterest and see what great foldables you can find!

Happy journaling!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Teacher Toolbox

I have seen these popping up on my pinterest feed.  A colleague made one a few years ago, and I love it.  These toolboxes are a great way to put a lot of your supplies in one place.  If you are like me, you have supplies in drawers, cups, bins, and well.....just all over your desk!

Well I bought my box Sunday night, and I fixed it all up that night.

The box:
I bought the box from Lowes.  At our home depot, you could only order them online.  I got the 39 drawer unit.  There was also an 18 and 22 unit (they were out of the 22).  I have a lot of stuff, so I went with the 39.  It was less than $20.

The labels:
There are labels you can buy from teachers pay teachers, but I had some time, so I went ahead and created what I needed myself.  I found a great blog where a teacher posted her box. Mrs. Rojas blogspot is a great source.  She also provided a link to her free labels.  I borrowed hers, and then created the rest of what I needed.  Here is a link to a google doc with my labels.  Due to font issues, the google doc does not have the same font I used, but the boxes are the correct sizes.  You can change up the font and the labels, and make it your own.

I printed my labels on colored cardstock.  I then used some decorative edge scissors and cut them out.  I used the template of the boxes and cut colored boxes from different scrapbook paper.

Putting it together:
Before I taped the labels down, I created a pattern with my colored paper.  I decided where I wanted my items, and I affixed the labels to the paper.  I used double-sided tape and put my labels on the colored paper.  After putting my labels on the colored paper, I then taped them to the drawers.  I used double sided tape, and you cannot see the tape in the drawer.  With all the drawers, I was able to have multiple drawers of the same thing.

I am so happy with how it turned out.  Although, I don't like to spend a lot of summer time planning for the next year, I love to make crafts.  This was a great project.  I am ready to get it in my classroom and get all the drawers filled.  I know it will keep my desk clutter free.  (Well I can hope)!

Happy toolbox making!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Teachers Pay Teachers SALE!!!!

Visit Teachers pay Teachers August 4th and 5th for a FANTASTIC sale!  This is the time to get those items you have been looking at.  I have a list of of items I am excited to get.  I love a great SALE!!

Use the promo code in addition to any sale the seller is giving!

Happy buying!

New Math TEKS.....Ready or not here they come

As all math teachers in Texas know, the teks have changed!  They aren't just changing a little.  They are changing A LOT!!!  It seems as though we just started the STAAR test (oh yeah!  we did)!  Now, they have come in and completely changed the math teks.  It might just be me, but they do resemble the common core.  HMMMMMM.  I am not sure if I am a fan of this, but I will need to adjust to make it work.

My 8th grade teks now resemble an algebra class.  The upside is that the 8th graders can now use calculators.  That will be a whole lesson.  I do not want to look out and see kids typing in 8 times 6 in the calculator (of course for some kids, this is necessary).  We will definitely need to set some boundaries.  I am a firm believer in people knowing the basic facts.  Although the technology is available, we still need to maintain basic math without the use of technology.

It looks like the 6th grade teks  are taking the biggest beating.  A lot of what I taught in the 8th grade is now being moved down to the 6th grade.  They still have a big mixture of material and more of it!  Hopefully the activities and presentations we were using will come in handy for the 6th grade.

It will definitely take adjusting to get used to the new teks.  We are professionals, and we will do the best job that we can.  I will continue to teach my kids what I am required to teach and then some. Tax and discount is no longer a tek directly listed for 8th grade.  That is such an important life skill, we will continue to incorporate the skill into our class.  If I teach all that I need to teach and teach it in a way that the kids can relate to, they will be fine on the test.  I will not start changing how I teach and only teach to the test. I will teach my kids math, and this will prepare them for the future.

For the 8th grade, I have created a scope and sequence we will be using.  It allows for about 5 weeks of flexibility before the test.  Hopefully, this will be enough to adjust the time spent on the activities. I have the document in my TPT store, and it is free.  Feel free to download and adjust to make it work for your needs. It is also color coded per reporting category (since the teks are all mixed up within each category).

Download the scope and sequence here. This is FREE!!!!!!

It also includes a curriculum plan for the first six weeks.  Of course,  all of this is a work in progress.

All of my math teks checklists have been updated with the new teks.  The new checklists also includes a list of where the old teks went (other grade or deleted).  Hopefully this will help to make sure everything is covered.
Comparison of old teks and where they went

Each tek is separated by reporting category

There is a place to list dates and mastery for each tek.

Here is the original post from two years ago when I created the checklists.  Click here to get all the information behind the checklists.

I have the lists for 2nd through 8th grade available in my store.
Click here for the 8th grade list.  For 3rd through 8th grade, I have also kept my old teks checklists.

I hope that regardless of the new teks, you will not be overwhelmed and lose sight of the main goal.  The main goal is to teach the kids and give them the best that you can give.  I wish you all the best with this new school year.

Happy tekking!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Graphs and Central Tendency

It has been a long time since my last post. We have been BUSY at school.  I have been covering for another teacher, so my evenings have been spent planning for another class.  It is a 7th grade class, so I was really having to regroup.

The kids were behind, so we were having to go in and hit all the concepts.  During this time of year (or any time of year for that matter), no one wants to be beat down with a bunch of notes.  Since I started doing an interactive journal in my 8th grade class, I thought I would go that route with these kids.  They responded so well!  They loved getting the information without feeling like they were copying down a bunch of "stuff".

During the fall, I reviewed over the different graphs and central tendency with my 8th graders.  I used turkeys and pumpkins.  I didn't think that theme would go well at this time of year, so I created baskets and bunnies.

Each basket represented a different graph.  The egg was glued on to each basket (in a slightly overlapping pattern), and it titled what the graph was.  The eggs serve as a tab for easy reference.  The graphs we reviewed were:

  • line plot
  • line graph
  • stem and leaf plot
  • bar graph
  • circle graph
  • venn diagram

Each bunny represented each measure of central tendency.  One ear was glued to each bunny (in a slightly overlapping pattern), and it detailed what the bunny covered.  When we finished we had a four-eared bunny!

Click here to get the template I used for the baskets/eggs and bunnies/ears.

The kids were able to go back and add some color to the foldable.  I loved seeing them pull them out and use them to help answer different questions.  The eggs and ears allowed for easy reference.  The kids were engaged and got the material I needed them to get.

The slowest part is the cutting!  I have found that when we do activities like this, it is best to go ahead and hand out the material when they come in, so they can start cutting as soon as they finish the bell ringer.  We also have to share scissors.  I plan on buying A LOT of scissors this summer!  Once you get past the cutting hurdle, it is smooth sailing!

Happy basket and bunny making!

Friday, February 7, 2014

REEL life math

For the past two years, I have assigned my advanced students the project of creating a real-life math video in which they teach a math problem.  It is part of a contest held by MathCounts.

I require the project for a grade, but the students have the option of submitting the video in the National contest.  For the first time, we have a team who has completed the submission process, and their video is in the contest.

The students did all the work on their own.  I was so impressed with the output.  Due to rights with music, they had to do a quick revision and create their own song.  They put a lot of time and effort into the project, and my other students enjoyed watching what they created.

I love it when students can go above and beyond the requirements.  I believe this is a great foundation tool for future endeavors.

Voting began February 4, 2014, and it runs through March 14, 2014.  Please take a minute and go vote for their video.  There is a quick login process, but it only takes a second.  You can vote every day!  The winning video wins scholarships for the team members.

Click here to vote:

Thank you for encouraging math to go beyond the boundaries of the school!

Happy Voting!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Desks instead of paper

We start every class period with a bell ringer.  The students will have 2-4 problems that they must begin working when they come in the room.  After the bell ringer, they will do a quick one question quiz which reviews some concept we have previously discussed.  The quiz must follow the four step plan of: Read, think, solve and justify.

Of course, we have papers that they can keep the work organized, but this year I like to throw in a little different bell ringer every now and then.

One morning, I handed each student a dry erase marker when they walked in the room.  On the bell ringer screen, I included a box that stated to answer the bell ringer by writing on the desk with the dry erase marker.  I heard several gasps and "REALLY?"  They got to work and enjoyed the activity.

I typically give 2-4 minutes to complete bell ringer.  We usually switch papers and grade it.  On this occasion, we weren't really able to switch papers, so I told them to go on a field trip to somewhere else in the room.  This not only allowed them to get up and move, but it kept their attention.

After checking the bell ringer, they wiped off the desk and got ready for the quiz.  Most of the desks wipe off very well.  A few of the desks have a little different laminate, but a disinfectant wipe got the marker right off. Once the quiz was completed, they went on another field trip to somewhere they had never been before.

The kids really took to this.  I have thrown this in about once a month.  A few weeks ago, we had group work for 3 days, so each day I allowed the bell ringer and quiz to be done this way.  It provides a change-up and it helps to keep the kids excited about what the class may hold.

This was an example of one desk after the quiz.  I had all the kids take a trip to this desk to see what I look for in a justification.

It is great to give the kids a little surprise, and this surprise was FREE!

Happy Desk Writing!