Monday, September 28, 2015

2015-2016 Classroom Set Up

I've been patiently waiting to post these pics because I've been waiting on a shelf to get hung in my classroom. I've come to the conclusion that it never will so I'm going to go ahead and post what my room looks like. Eventually it will be hung (right?) but it won't make a huge difference anyways.

This is what my room looks like from the outside. It's almost too cute for high school but I don't care. Since we're a K-12 building I know at least the elementary kids appreciate seeing it when they walk by to go to art or music.

Here is what you see when you walk in. I kept the general color scheme from my class last year because 1) it was cute and 2)I had no more money to spend on my new classroom. Between getting married, moving across the state, and my husband's new classroom I was broke.

I love my desk arrangement. I think it works well in my small space and the kids are all well-behaved enough that it works. I bought tv trays to hold their supplies caddies for our interactive notebooks because I was really tired of them falling in the floor and not getting picked up when they were just sitting on students' desks. I think I've only had 2 fall since the beginning of the year, whereas I would have about 5 fall per day in my old classroom.

Here's the front board. Each class has a spot that lets them know what they're doing for the day and what information they should write in their planner. We give planner points at the end of each quarter to use towards any class a student chooses, so this encourages them to write in their planners daily.

Right in front of the front board is my podium with my document camera and all the goodies I need. I also keep my interactive notebooks underneath so it's easy access.

On the right side of the front wall is another small dry erase board and a bulletin board. I write my "I Can" statements and assignment on the small dry erase board and keep data information on the bulletin board. I also have some posters on that wall, including my rules posters. I made those in Microsoft Publisher.


 Here's a close-up of the data so far this year. I have a blog post about data that you can view here.

Here's the back table. It is a hot mess. Once my shelf gets hung above it, all of those storage containers are going on the shelf. I keep two crates on the back table - one for extra papers per week for the quarter and the other for station work. I'll create a blog post about station work soon. Underneath the table are two more crates that students can use to put their notebooks in so they do not lose them. Very few actually leave them in here, which is pretty awesome.
Next to the back table I have my storage cabinet and Exit Slips. This storage cabinet was full of stuff from all the past math teachers so I didn't really mess with it. Next summer I plan to paint it and will hopefully go through it and get rid of some junk.

Underneath the Exit Slips is a little desk with a bunch of file folders on it. This is where I keep the stuff I plan to pass out for that class period, whether it be notebook papers of worksheets.
Above all of that is my lovely place value poster set that I just love. It adds color and takes up a lot of wall space, which would drive most people crazy. But I love it.
On the left of the storage cabinet is one more bulletin board that I keep my Absent Work Filetastic, Request to Retest slips, and Yellow Slips. Underneath that is a bookshelf where students keep their binders.
The last area in my room is my desk area. Behind my desk are two big radiators. I use these to put my stuff on since they only produce heat during the winter months (that's right, we have NO AIR CONDITIONING IN MISSOURI...crazy!). I have all kinds of crap on them. My goal is to get that area organized one day. I also have my calendar on my bulletin board behind my desk and some more posters.
Here's my (somewhat) organized desk. This is the biggest desk I've ever had and I love it. It also had a bunch of crap left in it from the old math teachers, so I hope to get that cleaned out this summer sometime also.
Next to my desk is another book shelf where I keep my curriculum binders. Since my curriculum has changed from my last school to this one, I have a lot of reorganizing to do with these things.
On top of my bookshelf is where I keep collected papers to grade. Each class has a folder and I just stick their papers in them and grab one when I'm ready to grade them.
Last is my little computer desk. It's pretty basic.
For the most part this arrangement works and is functional. I wish my room was a little bit bigger but it's alright. The most kids I ever have at one time is nine so it never feels too crowded in here.
The calendar and letters I got from Mardel's Chalk It Up collection. The posters I found on Amazon a long time ago.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Easy Review Games

We're wrapping up another week of learning at USHS and I thought today would be the perfect day to blog about review games (since we're playing one in almost every class). I love playing review games and my students do, too. I think they get much more out of it than just doing the review sheet and us going over it (which I also do, so I usually do 2 days of review).

The problem with doing review is that it can take a lot of time and effort for one class period. When I student taught, my cooperating teacher gave me a bunch of SMART templates for review games. I literally find a worksheet, cut it up, and use the template. This is how it usually happens:

1. I find a worksheet that has questions over what topics I want the students to review. In my Algebra I class today we're reviewing for Chapter 1 test. So I took used a test that came with my book materials.

2. I cut it up into little strips and put it in one of my question cans (pictured below)


3. I split the students into teams (I usually like 4 teams)

4. I have the students number their papers according to the number of questions in the cans (leave the numbers on the questions when you cut them up)

5. I pass out a question to each group
6. That group works out that question on their answer sheet -- if they got number 20 first, their answer would go next to number 20 on their answer sheet (this is why I leave the numbers on the questions)

7. I usually sit up front. Once they have their question answered, a member of that group will bring me their question and their answer sheet. I look at the answer and tell them if they got it right or not. If they did, they draw another question out of the question can. If they get it wrong, they have to go back and do it again until they get it right.
8. Once they get the question right, they get to do whatever is on the board. Most of my review games have spinners and they get to spin the spinner and add/subtract the number of objects from their board. The Apple Tree Game is pictured below.
I also have a soccer game, baseball game, Christmas presents game, flower game, Easter basket game, fall leaves game, Trick or Treat game, volleyball game, and a money game. They all are the same concept as the Apple Tree game.

I love these games and I'm so glad that I was introduced to them a while ago. Every time I think about reviewing a concept but don't want to put too much effort into making a game, I pull out a worksheet and one of these games and away we go. The kids love it, I love it, so it's a great way to spend a class period.

I believe these games came from the NCTM, but I'm not 100% sure. If you would like copies of these games, you can contact me using the contact form on the right of my blog and I will be more than happy to email these to you. You will need SMART Notebook to be able to use these.

Happy reviewing!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Request to Retest and Yellow Slips

I've been getting some questions about how my Request to Retest and Yellow Slips work in my classroom.

Request to Retest
I allow my student to retest once per quarter. If they want to retest they can decide to do it whenever they feel the need. It can be right after a test they got back and didn't like that grade or it can be later in the quarter and they decide on a test that they want to improve their grade. It really does not matter to me.

Once a student decides they want to retest, they grab a green form and fill it out and turn it in. There are two requirements to retesting.
1) They must come to a session of tutoring to correct any mistakes and ask questions.
2) They must retest in tutoring.

Some teachers I know that allow students to retest only allow them to get up to an 89% on the retest. I can see the value in that, but I allow them to receive full credit. Why put in all of that work when you can't get an A?

Here is a link to the form. I got this form from the lovely Sarah at Math=Love. She is seriously amazing. If you have nothing to do, go read her blog. She has some WONDERFUL ideas.

Request to Retest, put the ownership back of the students. Love this!:

Yellow Slips
Yellow slips are the best and worst thing that has ever happened to me. I love and hate them at the same time. I found this form on Pinterest and it came from a lovely lady named Elizabeth. Here is her blog.

A Yellow Slip is a missing work log that students fill out with the assignment and the reason why it is not turned in. They then turn it in in place of the assignment. They get 4 days to make it up, after that it is a zero. The first day is 10% off, 2nd day is 25% off, 3rd day is 50% off, and the 4th is 75% off. This is our district policy. My policy is that if a student does not turn in a yellow slip in place of an assignment, they get an automatic zero and may not make it up.

Here's why I love it: it allows me to see who didn't turn work in, read their excuses, and keep track of how many points I should deduct when I do get that assignment. It's nice for me to keep track of that stuff, and when a parent asks what's going on I have the proof that their child is not doing their work. It's also kind of a shaming technique I guess you can say, which probably isn't the best way but sometimes that's what it takes to get through to high school students. They don't like to be embarrassed so maybe they'll do their homework.

Here's why I hate it: some days I get more yellow slips than actual assignments and it makes my blood boil. It has nothing to do with the yellow slip itself, just that students don't do their work. And that yellow piece of paper makes me angry. Students also use it as a way to get extended time on an assignment instead of turning it in on time. Again, not really the yellow slip's fault since our district policy allows them 4 days, but it's just the idea of it.

Here's a link to the yellow slips form.
I must say, the use of Yellow Slips has dramatically declined since I've been at this new school. At my last school, I would get 50% or more yellow slips than homework every day and they didn't even care. Here it's a whole other ball game and I'm loving it.

I keep both forms in folders in the back of my room and students know what to do with them. Here's where they are. Easily accessible and labeled perfectly.


I've since changed my Yellow Slip and Request to Retest forms. Downloadable versions are available by clicking the links.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Data Tracking

The lovely world of DATA!! When I first started learning about data, I was severely overwhelmed. It just seemed like soooooo much work that I didn't even know where to start. Through a lot of trial and error (and maybe a lot of frustration as well), I have come up with a good way to track data that leaves it all up to the students. And any time I can give them some responsibility, it is a good thing.

Disclaimer: This still takes quite a bit of work on my end, but the value of it is worth it I think.

I teach ALL of high school math this year. Thankfully I moved to a district that already has the Essential Learning Outcomes picked out for each subject. With our lovely teacher evaluation now being tied to student progress on their ELO's, teachers are having to come up with a way to track that data and show that progress. Here is how my data tracking works (in steps):

Step 1: Pre-test.

Yes, I said it. Pre-test. Even if you think your students don't know anything, pre-test them anyways. A lot of value comes from pre-testing. So take the time to do it. I use a post-test from the chapter I'm teaching and use it as my pre-tests.

Once you have pre-tested, you need to pick out the major topics/standards that are taught in that chapter. There are usually 4-6. Grade your pre-test based on these standards. There are going to be several scores on a pre-test and that's exactly what you want. Here is a pre-test I gave in Geometry with the overall score on top and all of the sub-scores also included.

As you can see, there are several scores on there. Yeah, this student did really bad on the pre-test (they're supposed to most of the time--it's a pre-test). However, I can see that she knows some stuff about the main topics we're going to talk about in this chapter, and that's very valuable.

Step 2: Chart it.

Students keep a binder in my class with all kinds of things in it. The main thing I care about it their data tracking section. They have a section in their binder that is strictly for THEIR. OWN. DATA. I don't have giant binders of a thousand papers that I have to sift through. I can go to theirs and look up what I need. It's so nice! After we pre-test, I give them these charts and have them fill it out with me. I use the main topics' scores and their overall score and show them how to chart it. It's just a bar graph that shows their score on that topic. These bars are color coded:

0-50 is red
51-75 is yellow
76-100 is green

After they chart it, they put the date on the top of the bar.

I also do this for each class and use their class averages on each subtopic and keep a binder of it.

Step 3: Repeat.

Repeat this as many times as you need to. I typically have 3 or 4 bars per topic. The first is the pre-test, the second (sometimes third) is a formative assessment, and the last is the post-test for the chapter. This is such a HUGE confidence booster for students because they can literally see their learning take place. Here is a formative assessment on the first two topics.
That's about all there is to it. This is by far the best way I've done this and the most effective. It takes maybe 10 minutes after the students are used to doing it.