November 3, 2013

Quarter 1 Successes

I haven't changed much about my classroom layout this year, but the one new addition, Mathy McMatherson's Wall of Champions, is awesome!!
Last year any time a student got a perfect score I would stamp their paper with a gold star (because a student told me even high schoolers like stickers and I compromised with stamps). Then I read Dan's post, found yellow star sticky notes at Staples and claimed a spot on the wall. I purposely picked a section of wall in the front of the room near my desk - as soon as the first class had gotten their quizzes back other classes, students I had after school who weren't in my class and colleagues started asking about the stars. Since I took the photo above I've run out of yellow stars and started in on the orange ones (they come in a two pack). Students are competing to get their star the highest on the wall, creating a cluster with all their stars and spreading to other parts of the wall. It's great to see kids celebrating successes and aiming for perfection rather than "good enough."

I started using a required binder system in geometry last year and have fine tuned it this year. For PreCalc I don't require a binder but offer them all the same resources except the structured notes. The very first thing is a plastic sandwich bag we forced through the rings filled with a pencil, a dry erase marker and a cloth for erasing the dry erase marker (cotton face wipes were destroyed within a day, kids did not interpret them as reusable). There are still kids looking for a pencil or pen sometimes, but less often than in the past I think. Next is a plastic sleeve that contains a graph on one side and a problem solving template on the back. Both were essential in our pattern unit. They've gotten less use lately, I need to mix in more word problems and multi-step problems.

The first section is the reference section. Flappers are still working well. Last week my co-teacher had an awesome idea - a notation dictionary. There are plenty of symbols that don't warrant an entire index card for the flappers but students need to have notes on them. Since we started mid-year we did a matching activity where I put all the symbols on the board and they had to match to the definitions. From now on we'll add symbols and definitions as they come up.

The next sections are classwork and homework. Boring. Following those is the assessment section. I made yet another grade recording chart and finally got this one to stick! It helped that I started at the very beginning of the year so either I remember to tell them to fill in the chart as I pass papers back or I see someone flipping to it and tell everyone to do the same. It turned out to have more space than I needed so I'll be modifying it to record their investigations (graded classwork/projects) as well. I wanted to use it when kids requested to reassess, especially if they reassess on the same topic more than once so I give them a different version, but I haven't been remembering to do that. Maybe this quarter...

The final section is the journal. Using "I notice, I wonder" has been great. I'm going to try QR code journaling a la Musing Mathematically, but just with PreCalc to start. Baby steps.

So, students are motivated to do well and have the support to do so with their binders. All that's left is great lessons to let them show off! Having two preps that I taught last year is awesome. My filing system + dropbox + memory (functional since it was just last year) = tons of resources. This year has been much more about "I want to do this - I have this thing that needs a bit of modification" than "I want to do this - should I write it or look for one?" Memory is key in that equation though, I need to remember that I have resources all the time, even when it seems easy to make a new version of a quiz off the top of my head, because that means the retakes I wrote last year won't quite match up. I'm hoping to get better at looking at last year's version first to see if I need to change things.

How about you? How are you faring so far? What are your goals for the school year? The world wants to know.


  1. Earlier this am I posted my progress, or lack thereof, towards my SMART goal. I fell short of the mark for first quarter, but a remarkable thing happened that makes me think I didn't fall short at all.

  2. I was very confused when I read the title of your post in my reader - in my school kids get sent out into the hall if they're misbehaving and need to be separated from the class to focus! Congrats on your success.