Last summer I watched Annie Fetter’s Notice/Wonder video at a training led by Sara Van Der Werf.  I instantly knew this was something that I needed to be using in my classroom, and I was able to use the questions “What do you notice?” and “What do you wonder?” while tutoring over the summer to try it out before the school year.  Right away, I was amazed by how those two questions changed things for me while tutoring, but I was unsure how to implement it into a classroom setting compared to a one-on-one tutoring session.

When I first started using it, I wasn’t sure how to do it.  I wondered if there was a “right” or “wrong” way to do it, so I was more hesitant to use it in my classroom.  As I started using it more, it gradually became a common routine, both formal and informal, in my classroom.  I was curious to see the how I used Notice/Wonder over the course of the year, so I went through my files from the year and pulled out the images I was intentional about using with Notice/Wonder.  As I look back on the images from this past year, I would put most of them into one of the following categories.

  1. Students noticed/wondered about a problem before beginning to work on it.
  2. Students noticed/wondered things about several similar but slightly different images, and then we discussed how these slight differences impacted the math we were talking about.
  3. Students noticed/wondered things about a new concept on connected it to what they already knew.
  4. Students noticed patterns and/or put new concepts into groups.

The first two usually happen more in the middle of a unit, while the last two were typically how I started a unit.

The routine in my classroom for this is that students work individually for a few minutes writing their answers down.  I typically tell them something like, “Write down 7 things you notice and 5 things you wonder.”  Sometimes when they finish, I do a stand and talk (read about them here– scroll down to #4) before going over their responses as a class, other times we go right into a whole class discussion.

I saw this on Twitter a while back, and I like this idea rather than giving students a specific number of things to notice or wonder.

Here are some things I noticed about how I used this over the course of the year.

  • I was surprised by how often students were able to connect the new concepts to what they already know.  This was HUGE for me as a teacher because it helped me to realize I don’t always have to start from ground zero when introducing new concepts.  It also helped my students see how math builds off of itself.
  • When students noticed the differences among what we were talking about and made the connections I wanted them to make, it stuck better than if I would have just told them.
  • It gave me as the teacher a ton of insight into where my students were at with the math.  Some students would comment on the size or color of what was on the board.  Other students would connect it to what they had learned in the past.  The vocab they used when talking about it also gave me clues as to where I needed to go with what we were talking about.

As the year went on I found myself asking “What do you notice?” much more informally in class.  I would use it when I put a problem slightly different than what students had seen before, or if we were working on a problem and students were hesitant to participate.  Asking them what they noticed was a much safer way for them to participate than jumping into the problem right away.

I also found that I asked students what they noticed MUCH more often than “What do you wonder?”

Is every Notice/Wonder I do awesome?  No.  Are there more effective things I could be doing?  Most likely.  But this is where I’m at right now with this.  It’s made a HUGE impact on myself and my students, and I’ve seen growth in myself when it comes to using this in class compared to the start of the year.  After doing Notice/Wonder more often with students, it became easier for me to find new ways to incorporate it into my lessons, and I saw an improvement in the images I used with my students.

**Update:  I had this post written and saved in my drafts before going to another training by Sara Van Der Werf where she talked a lot about Notice/Wonder and was encouraged to have her validate many of the ways that I’ve been using this in my classroom.   I will try to remember to link Sara’s blog post on this training when she posts it.**

Here are some images of how I used Notice/Wonder with my 8th graders.

I used Notice/Wonder the first week of school with Fawn Nguyen’s Noah’s Ark problem to get them to think about the problem before starting.  This idea was completely stolen from Sara, and it was a great way for me to start using this with students.

Screen Shot 2017-06-23 at 7.17.39 PM.png

This is another example of a time when I had students Notice/Wonder before they actually started solving the problem.  I was especially hoping they would talk about the exponents.

Screen Shot 2017-06-23 at 8.30.10 PM

While grading quizzes, I finally saw where the misconceptions were coming from with some of the mistakes my students were making, so I created a notice/wonder to talk about those and the differences between the following terms.  This ended up being one of my favorites from the year.

Screen Shot 2017-06-23 at 7.18.00 PM

Here are several examples of when I used Notice/Wonder to introduce new concepts.

Screen Shot 2017-06-23 at 7.18.10 PM

Screen Shot 2017-06-23 at 7.18.18 PM

Screen Shot 2017-06-23 at 7.18.27 PM

Screen Shot 2017-06-23 at 7.19.18 PM

I used this one to help students see the differences between the various forms of linear equations.

Screen Shot 2017-06-23 at 7.18.49 PM

Rather than just giving students a new formula like I would have in the past, I used Notice/Wonder.  Students were able to tell me the variables they were familiar with, so the formula didn’t seem completely new to them, and we discussed the variables they hadn’t seen before.

Screen Shot 2017-06-23 at 7.18.44 PM

In our unit on sequences, I used Notice/Wonder a few times in hopes that students would notice patterns and connect the sequence to the formula.

Screen Shot 2017-06-23 at 7.19.03 PM

Screen Shot 2017-06-23 at 7.19.11 PM

I felt that I didn’t use Notice/Wonder as well with my 6th graders, but there were a few times throughout the year that it worked well.

I used it at the start of the year to introduce the game Set.

This spring I saw this Tweet.  I’m always encouraged when I see that someone else confirms that something I did in my classroom was a good idea.

After seeing that, I was reminded to use it again to introduce the rules to this Kenken puzzles.

Screen Shot 2017-06-23 at 8.22.35 PM

I used the following image when introducing the idea that there are 180° in a triangle.

Screen Shot 2017-06-23 at 8.22.42 PM

A few days later I put up these images to talk about the interior angles of polygons.

Screen Shot 2017-06-23 at 8.22.49 PM


Twitter: More than Just a Place to Steal Resources

Yesterday I shared some of my favorite Tweets from the 2016-2017 school year.  They were mainly of things I want to remember to use/steal for next school year.  That was why I first got involved on Twitter.  I was looking for great ideas to steal from others, but as I was going through Tweets, I started realizing how much getting involved on Twitter has helped me as a teacher beyond the resources I find to use in my classroom.  I realized that my “Twitter Friends” not only make me a better teacher through the resources they share, but they also encourage me.  They help me see that I’m not the only one that has days where I question what I’m doing.  They validate those feelings and encourage me to keep going.  They remind me that the work we do as teachers is so incredibly important, even when we don’t feel like we’re making a difference.  They also challenge me to think critically about my teaching.  That was an added bonus of getting involved in the #MTBoS that I didn’t know would happen when I was first looking for stuff to steal.

So here are some of those Tweets.

Here are a few Tweets that have made me think about my teaching.

It is also encouraging to see that other teachers have lessons that flop, don’t have great ways to teach concepts, or still don’t fully understand some of the concepts we’re supposed to teach.  More importantly, it’s a great reminder that it’s ok to admit those things and ask for help.

So thanks MTBoS for becoming so much more than just a place to go to steal resources.


Favorite Tweets of the 2016-2017 School Year

One of the things on my to-do list this summer was to go through my Twitter “likes” and clean it up a bit.  As I was doing this, I was surprised to see that it’s really only been a little over a year since I started using Twitter to find math resources.  It’s now the first place I go when looking for ideas to use in my classroom, and I don’t remember teaching before I found the MTBoS (Math Twitter Blog-o-Sphere).

Here are some of my favorite “likes” from the past year or so.  They are things I liked with the intention of using, or modifying and using, in my classroom but haven’t yet.  So here’s to trying to remember to use some of this for next year.

Here are a few that just made me smile and think “Oh my gosh!  You too?!”

I try to beat the Chick-fil-a system by saving my extra packets of sauce so I can have Chick-fil-a without laving my house.


Seeing Dan Meyer say that it’s ok to have times like this made me smile.


Weekends and summers.  God had to have created them with teachers in mind.

Happy summer!

Add ‘Em Up

I read about Sara Van Der Werf’s Add ‘Em Up activity on her blog a while back.  I remember reading her blog and seeing the pictures of this awesome activity and thinking, “Ok, this is great, but is it really like this in real life?  Yeah, it works for Sara.  But she’s THE Sara Van Der Werf. Would my classroom really look like this too?!”

Then I heard her talk about it last summer a few times at PD she was running.  I was slightly more convinced that I could pull this off, but I wasn’t fully there yet.  I remembered this activity when I was looking for something other than a worksheet to do with one of my classes, and I decided this would be a good class to test it out on.

This is what I saw in my classroom in nearly all of my groups!

IMG_5365 2

My classroom really does look like Sara described in her blog when I do this activity with my students.  It has become one of my favorite ways to review concepts with my students.  I love that it’s minimal prep for me.  I create 4 problems, get big sheets of paper, and I’m good to go!  I’ve learned to just keep several big sheets of paper in my classroom so I am prepared at all times to do this with a class.  I also love that my students just naturally start working together while doing this activity.

Sara explains in detail how the activity works in her blog post, but here’s a brief overview of how I’ve done it in my classroom.  I highly recommend that you read through her post if you decide to use this in your classroom.  Re-reading Sara’s post was a good refresher for me.  She does several things I have left out when I do the activity with students.

  • Put students into groups of 4.
  • Give students a big sheet of paper to work the problems on and have them divide it into four sections with a circle in the middle.
  • Each student solves one of the four problems given to the group in their section.  Once all students have an answer, they add up the four answers and that number goes in the middle circle.
  • When students finish, I tell them whether or not the number in the middle is correct.  I love that they don’t know which problem(s) of the four are incorrect, just that something is wrong.  Students automatically start helping each other to find their mistake.  It’s great!

Here is the link to download the activities I created this year.  Please let me know if you find any mistakes in my work.  The following activities can be found in the link above.

6th Grade Activities:

  • Evaluate expressions
  • Solving one step equations with decimals
  • Greatest common factor and least common multiple
  • Solving multi-step equations (includes equations with variables on both sides)
  • Solving multi-step equations using the distributive property

8th Grade Activities:

  • Solving equations review (includes quadratics, absolute value, square root, and equations with no solution/infinite solution -I just had students tell me which problem(s) had no solution or infinite solutions when they gave me the number in the box.)
  • Function notation

Highlights from 2016-2017

Megan recently posted her highlights from a hard year, and it caused me to think about my highlights from the past year.

This past school year was a tough year for me as a teacher for a multitude of reasons.   Because of that, I sometimes I feel guilty for mostly sharing just the good stuff here.  However, I’ve said since day 1 that this is a space for me, a place for me to reflect for myself.  Because many days I leave school feeling like I complained/vented too much to my colleagues about things that didn’t go how I hoped and was too hard on myself over how the day went, or was frustrated over things I felt were out of my control this has become my space to reflect and find the good and positive things that I often miss in the midst of my days.  Because there’s been a lot of really great things that have happened in my classroom this past year too, despite it being a tough year.

In the process of writing about my highlights from this year, the quote “Every day may not be good, but there’s something good in every day” comes to mind.  There were definitely many days this school year that I would not classify as “good” days, but even as I look back on those tough and challenging days, I see growth in myself as a teacher, colleague, and a person.  And for that, I am counting those trials and challenges as joy and am grateful for them.

Here are my top 10 favorite things from the past year in no particular order.

  • New Classroom – As part of a big remodeling project at my school, I got a new classroom, and I absolutely LOVE it.  I love the big windows.  I love that I had a clean slate to re-organize and set it up the way I wanted.


  • 8th Grade – I taught 8th grade for the first time this year, and I’ve found that I really, really love it.  It’s sort of ironic because I remember being in college and looking at the 8th grade standards and thinking that I never wanted to teach 8th grade.  Now I am, and I wouldn’t want it any other way!
  • New Stuff in 6th Grade – This is the 4th time I’ve taught 6th grade, but I haven’t found ways to go about teaching the concepts as quickly as I have with 8th grade.  However, I tried a few new things this year with 6th grade that I enjoyed.  I used differentiated review stations that I learned about from Michelle at TMC 16.  I used Julie’s ideas for teaching solving equations and Fawn’s ideas for dividing fractions.
  • Wednesdays with 1st Hour – Every Wednesday 15 minutes into first our, about half my 6th graders left for religion class.  Partway through the year, the routine sort of became that they would work on a puzzle type problem for the first 15 minutes, and then after students left, the rest of the students could pick from any of the games I had in my closet if the rest of their work was done.  This became one of my favorite parts of my week.  I loved watching students learn a new game together or seeing a student who already knew how to play a game teach it to others.  It was fun to watch my students interact and have fun while playing a math/logic type game that didn’t involve a screen.

Every year it’s fun to see which games students gravitate toward.  Blokus is always a hit.  Last year Blink was a big favorite among students.  This year, my students really enjoy Rush Hour and Tipover.

  • Stand and Talks – I first heard about Stand and Talks from Sara Van Der Werf.  I don’t know that a day goes by when I don’t use them at least once in every single one of my classes throughout the day.  Here’s one way that I use them with Find the Flub.
  • Notice/Wonder – This may be perhaps the biggest game changer in my classroom this year.  If you haven’t watched Annie Fetter’s ignite video on this yet, stop reading this right now and go here to watch it.  Now, I don’t know if I always use notice/wonder the “right” way.  I don’t know if there is a right or wrong way to use this.  I do know that I can’t remember teaching before I started using this in my classroom.  I don’t know who has benefited from this more this year, my students or myself.  It has been huge for all of us to realize that my students can use prior knowledge when working with the current/new topics.  I started the year off by using this more formally and being intentional about when I would ask the questions “What do you notice?  What do you wonder?” in my lessons.  When I first started using this, I wasn’t quite sure when/how to use this, but as I started using it more and more, that became easier.  I now find myself asking these questions more informally throughout many of my lessons.


  • Find the Flub – I’ve loved incorporating these as a warm-up for students.  I really like that it provides students a safe place to talk about mistakes in math because the mistakes made came from me, rather than the students.


  • Which One Doesn’t Belong – I used Which One Doesn’t Belong pretty regularly last year with my 6th graders as a warm up.  It generally related to what we were currently talking about, but it didn’t necessarily tie to the rest of the lesson that day.  This year, I did a lot more with creating my own WODB problems so that I could directly tie it into the lesson for the day.  I sometimes found that I could skip a portion of the direct instruction after doing the WODB problem.  Next year, I hope to create more of these to use in my lessons.


  • Open Middle – Unlike WODB problems that I had used regularly in the past, this was the first year that I really did much with Open Middle problems.  I pretty much only used them in one of my classes, and I’m not quite as comfortable implementing them as I am many of the other things I use in my classroom, like WODB.  Despite that, I really, really like using them and the conversation and math that happens because of them.  This is something I plan on using more of next year, and I hope that as I become more comfortable using them I find that, like WODB, I am able to start creating my own so that I can tailor them more specifically for what we are doing in class.


  • Add ’em Up – A while back, Sara Van Der Werf shared Add ‘Em Up, a review activity she does with her students, and I’ve used it several times this year.  I love that in a short amount of time I can  create an activity that engages all of my students and is a nice change from a typical worksheet.
  • Desmos – (I know this is #11, but how can you leave out Desmos?!)  This year I did more with creating my own Desmos activities and using Desmos more as the main part of my lesson rather than something I used as a portion of my lesson.  Here are three of the activities I created in Desmos and uses in place of the direct instruction I had done in the past.

As I look over that list, a couple things stand out to me.

  1. Nearly all of those things were not part of my classroom two years ago, yet I can’t imagine teaching without using things like Notice/Wonder and Stand and Talks.  Are they highlights because they were new this year, and the “old stuff” doesn’t stand out to me anymore?  Regardless of the answer to that question, it makes me excited to think about what things will be a part of my classroom next year that will become highlights for me that previously didn’t happen in my classroom.  How will I complete this sentence a year from now? “Man, I can’t imagine teaching without using ______!”
  2. It’s rewarding for me personally to see things like Which One Doesn’t Belong? and Desmos activities that I did use in my classroom in prior years become something bigger this year as I started creating my own to fit my lessons.  Not too long ago, those were things that I was hesitant to try and wasn’t as confident on how they would go as a part of my lesson.  It’s a good reminder for me to stick with routines (like Open Middle problems) that I may not be as comfortable with.  With time, these may become something that is more frequently the focus of a lesson and something I am comfortable creating to fit a particular lesson.