Good Things

I’ve done Sara Van Der Werf‘s name tents the last several years and have really enjoyed hearing from every student every day the first week.  However, after that week, I wasn’t nearly as intentional about this.  This year I started asking a non-math question at the end of every test, and I respond to every student like I did on the name tents.  I shared briefly about that in this post.  This has been one of my absolute favorite things I’ve implemented this year.  I look forward to test day because of this, and as I walk around while students are testing, I notice that when they get to the back page of the test, they skip ahead and answer that question first, so I think they like it too.

The first few tests I asked random things like “If you could live anywhere, where would you live?”  “If you could go on vacation anywhere, where would it be?”

Then I remembered Rebecka Peterson has her students write down One Good Thing in a notebook every time they take a quiz.  Rebecka never reads these from her students; it’s just for the students.  I thought about using that as the prompt for students, but I admit, I was a little bit hesitant.  I wondered how this would go with my middle schoolers compared to Rebecka’s pre-calc and calc students.  I wondered if I would get a ton of “nothings”.  I was worried about what they would think knowing that I would be reading them or if this should be something just for them.

My goodness.  Their responses were incredible.  I decided after that first time to never ask another question all year.

I heard about students who helped another student pick up their stuff, who realized they paid attention in class more that week, or who couldn’t think of a bad thing that has happened in a long time (Man, reading that response from the student knowing some of what’s going on outside of school stopped me in my tracks.  That student is going through some tough stuff right now, yet couldn’t think of a bad thing.  Wow!).  Another response started, “Bad thing first…” and then the student went on to say how that bad thing turned into a good thing.  How often do I not take the time to see that the bad/difficult thing, ended up being something pretty great?

My students taught me more than I taught them that week.

Did I get some “I don’t know” or “nothing” responses?  Yes.  Even then, it gave me the opportunity to think back on the week and try to point out a good thing that the student did or that happened to the student.

I’m also really enjoying the opportunity to check in with students and ask about their good things while they are working on test corrections.

And some of their responses just make me smile.  I love that they are taking the time to recognize these good things in their lives.




This past week was one of the best weeks I’ve had with my 6th graders in a long time.  Sara Van Der Werf has said during PD to take note of the good moments in your classroom, the moments when students are engaged, because we want to recreate those moments!

When I think back on this past week in 6th grade, one thing stands out to me.  Movement.

Nearly every day this past week, a good portion of the class my students were out of their desks practicing problems.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence.

This is something I *know* I need to be doing, but I’ll be honest, I had gotten out of the habit of intentionally putting it in my lesson plans.  Last year I had class sizes of around 33, and it was definitely more difficult to do these types of things both because of space as well as for behavior reasons.  Because I hadn’t been using these types of things last year, I had sort of forgotten to be intentional about this, even with much smaller class sizes this year.

Here’s some of the activities we did this week to practice problems using greatest common factor and least common multiple.

Every student had a card with a different number on it.  The numbers did not go in order and were random.  Half of the numbers were printed on one color paper, the other half on another.  Students were to pair up with someone who had the opposite color card as them, find the greatest common factor of the two numbers, check their answer using Desmos (Did you know you can type in gcf(24,32), and it will give you the greatest common factor?!), switch cards, and then find a new partner.

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I did have a few cards left over so that if a group of students finished and there weren’t any other groups close to being ready, I could give them a new number so they could keep working.

VNPS.  I admit, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve tried using Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces with 6th graders, and the times that I have used it, I’ve used it with one of my sections that I thought could handle it, or with only a handful of students who had finished their other work.  This was the first time I had tried it with all students in all of my sections.  It was great!  I will definitely be doing this again!

Loop Activity.  We did a loop activity, or sometimes called a scavenger hunt.  I hang pieces of paper with problems around the room and on each paper is the answer to the previous problem.  If students do the problems correctly, they will loop back to the first problem after completing all of the problems.  Here is the link to the post where I shared this activity.

Word Problems.  When we did word problems, we didn’t spend a ton of time going over examples together as a class.  We did two problems, and then students spent the remainder of the hour working on their own with partners.  Even though we didn’t spend a ton of time as a large group, students still did great on their own.

Now, here’s to hoping I remember this in the future, even when I have larger class sizes!