More “One Good Things”

Today was another day where the “One Good Things” just kept piling on.

Don’t get me wrong.  There were plenty of things that would not classify as “Good Things” that happened today.  Plenty of them.  However as I drove home today, the Good Things are what stood out to me.

You can read the blog of other people’s One Good Things here and here is my “One Good Thing” post from last week.

I had to leave my classroom for a short time between homeroom and first hour.  When I returned to my classroom my 6th graders were quietly at their desks working on their Which One Doesn’t Belong? warm-up.


One of my students was called down to the office at the end of the hour.  I actually heard this student groan at having to leave class.  This is a student who I have a feeling has not felt very successful in math in the past, but today that student was working hard and was feeling success in math and because of that didn’t want to stop working!


I’ve been encouraging my next hour’s class to participate more.  I had students who are rarely willing to participate and raise their hand, participate today!


I had a 6th grader raise his hand to ask a question during work time, but then he said, “Wait, I should look it up first.”  And he used his Chromebook to look up what he needed.

I realize that these are small things, but to me these are things that will have such a big impact moving forward, especially since I am seeing these things in my students so early on in the year.  My students are starting to get used to routines I have in place in my classroom.  My students are willing to be brave and participate, even if they may not be super confident in what they are doing.  My students are starting to see that if they engage in what we are working on and try, they can be successful.  My students are starting to become more independent and figure out how to find the answers to their questions without needing me all the time.


A Day Full of “One Good Things”

I love reading the One Good Thing blog.  It always encourages me to find the positive in my day, regardless of what kind of a day/week I’m having.

Yesterday was one of those days that was full of One Good Things.


I started with the following Which One Doesn’t Belong in my first 6th grade class.  The conversation was SO good, and I loved hearing all the vocabulary my students remembered.  The conversation went equally well in my other two sections.

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Then we used this Desmos activity.  It was the first time this group of students used Desmos.  It was love at first Class Code.  The groans when I paused the activity were music to my ears -I even gave them a 5 second warning.



In my 8th grade classes I used Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces (#VNPS) for the first time this year.  Whenever I do this, I ask myself why I don’t do this more often.  I’m always amazed at how much more engaged students are and how much more they participate when we do this compared to seat work.

After grouping students randomly for this, I saw that two students who I struggle to get to do anything on a lot of days ended up partners.  I had my doubts about how their group would function, but the 20 minutes those students worked together was by far the best either of them had worked all year!



When it came time for my 5th hour class, I logged in to Desmos to find that none of my custom activities or history showed up in my account.  What could have been a disaster (my 30+ minute lesson plan with 6th graders, gone), ended up going just fine.

For whatever reason, my students were crazy patient and quiet while I tried to log in to Desmos and figure out what was going in.  Then I finally realized what happened.  My school email changed over the summer, and I had been trying to change my Desmos account to my new address.  I had contacted Desmos earlier in the week to help with this and saw in an email that they were able to make the change for me just before 5th hour.  The change didn’t quite go as expected, and I needed to change my password and wasn’t able to do this.

We had just set up something else on my students’ Chromebooks, so I had them work in that while I emailed Desmos to try to figure out the issue.  I spent the next 10 minutes or so emailing Denis from Desmos -we may as well have been live chatting for as quick as Denis was to respond to my emails.  (Have I mentioned that Desmos is awesome!  After my initial split second of panic when everything in my account was gone, there was never a doubt in my mind that Desmos would be able to fix the issue.)

The hour ended, and I still wasn’t able to get my stuff back in my account.  However, I tried the same thing I had been trying during class one more time, and it worked!  I was ready to go for 6th and 7th hours.


After school I was able to go and support a colleague whose family is going through a difficult time.  While the situation isn’t a good thing, I was glad I could be there for her during this difficult time.

Year 5. Day 1.

Oh my goodness.  It is SO. GOOD. to be back in my classroom teaching.

The first couple days have been great.  I love that half of my classes are students I have had before and already have rapport with.  And then there’s my 6th graders.  Every year I tell myself I’m ready for 6th graders on the first day.  Every year I’m wrong.  But oh how I love them.

My first day this year was pretty similar to what I did last year.  I, like many others in the MTBoS, am using so many ideas from Sara Van Der Werf.  We started with the 100 Numbers Task in all of my classes and ended with name tents.  Depending on the class and how much time we had, in some classes I got to the math talk I had planned and the notice/wonder activity for the set game (6th grade) or Fawn’s Noah’s Ark problem (7/8 grades).

I was so excited, yet nervous, to finally use the version of Sara’s 100 number task that I created just before school started.  You can find that version here.

I used this with my 7th grade class.  This is my second year in a row having these students, and it feel like we picked up right where we left off at the end of last year.  I’ve already found myself smiling numerous times as they’re working so proud of how far they’ve come since last year.

I started by showing them Sara’s version.  We talked about how we used it last year -how group work was important and that there was a pattern.  I told them we were doing a new version this time and there would be expressions instead of numbers.  I gave them an example of the number 8 and asked them to tell me what expressions they might see on the sheet for 8.  They came up with 2 x 4, 4 + 4, etc.  I also briefly reviewed exponents with them before they started.  I told them there was still going to be a pattern, but that it was different than the one last year -they all remembered the pattern from last year.

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We also talked before they started about whether or not this was about being fast.  One student loudly proclaimed, “No!  It’s about teamwork!”  Whether or not he was trying to be a smart aleck, I don’t know, but I went with it and reminded them that math isn’t about being fast.  I was interested to see how well they worked together on this.

Right before I had them start was the most nervous I had been all day.  I so badly wanted this to go well and was worried they would see the page full of expressions and panic.

Again, I shouldn’t doubt this group of students.  They never cease to amaze me.  They dove right in and got to work.


I gave them 5 minutes to work on the task.  It was nowhere near enough time for them to find all of the numbers, but I thought it was a good amount of time for them to find enough to start to see a pattern.


A couple groups noticed the pattern after one round.

I also noticed one group write numbers next to some of the expressions they didn’t yet need as they were looking for other numbers.  I thought this was a great strategy!



Ready to Go!

Up until a week ago or so my classroom looked pretty much the same as it did last year, which was fine.  I loved my room last year.  However, now that I’ve spent some time in there this weekend and added a few new things, I feel ready to go for the year.

The only thing that’s missing is my play table.  I haven’t quite figured out the perfect spot for it (or what I’ll use for the table).  I’m hoping once the year starts, and I see kids in the space, I’ll have a better idea of where would be a good place for it.

Here’s some of the changes in my room since last year.  (The link to download the files for the stuff used in my room last year is in this post.

Within the first few minutes of class, there are often students asking for a pencil, students needing a calculator, and students needing to get what they missed from being absent.  I decided to put all of these things in one space.  Last year, the folders for missing work were in the back of the room, sort of behind my desk, and I hope that this will be a better spot for them.  I’m also trying something new with pencils this year.  We’ll see how it goes.  Pencils became a daily frustration of mine.  I don’t mind giving a student a pencil who needs one, but I didn’t like the system I had last year.


The True Delight poster is from Meg.  Here is the link to her post with it.  I love the quote.  I love that seeing the poster reminds me of Meg, and I love that the quote is from Isaac Asimov.  Growing up, every morning while eating breakfast my dad and I would do the Isaac Asimov’s Super Quiz that was in the paper daily.  I usually wasn’t very good at them, but I looked forward to doing it with my dad everyday.

To make the magnet board to hold the pencils, I got a 12×12 magnetic sheet like this one at a craft store.  I already had the frame at school that I had used for something else in my old classroom, and it was perfect for this.  I added a piece of scrapbook paper, and attached it to the wall with command velcro strips.


This is the quote I put up above the calculators.  I saw it recently on Twitter and decided I wanted it up in my room.  You can download it here.

This summer I made an electronic version of a poster I had up in my room last year.  I decided I should make it using Publisher before our school switched over to Macs.  You can download it here.  It’s designed to be printed as a 22×28.


If your school has laptops and you don’t have a laptop stand, you need one.  I’m serious!  I got this stand for my laptop at some point last year mainly because my cousins are chiropractors and didn’t give me much choice.  BUT I absolutely love it and can’t imagine going without it.


I didn’t think my classroom could become any more “Sarafied” than it already was, but then Sara posted this.  I was wrong.  It could, and it did.

The bins below are one of the things I took from Sara’s post.  Sara puts all of the handouts, worksheets, etc. into a bin, and if a student needs another copy of something, they dig through the bin.  No more filing extra papers.  No more digging through said files when a student comes in asking for another copy of a worksheet from a month ago.  I’m already looking forward to this!


I have been in Sara’s classroom a couple times and have always loved the group number signs she has hanging from her ceiling.  Megan recreated them.  You can download them here.  I ended up deciding to add groups 7-10.  Here is the link to the ones I made.  It’s a pdf since I used a bit different font for the front side.  If you want and editable version, go to Sara’s blog and check out what Megan made.  They’re great!!

I attached it to the ceiling using a magnet like Sara suggested in her post.  I used a hot glue gun to attach the yarn to the magnet.  I think I ended up having the signs hang down a little bit over a foot.




Another thing I took from Sara’s post was to make these binder clips.  When I printed off what Sara shared on her blog, I discovered that her binder clips were bigger than mine.  I made a smaller version of what she shared.  You can find it here.


Then there’s this.  Casey started this in her classroom years ago.  Hers is amazing!   She sent me the pdf of the poster, and I decided to make one of my own.  I love it!



Top Organization Things of 2016-2017

This week’s topic for Sunday Funday, organized by Julie, is “Everything Organization”.  This post has been sitting in my drafts since the end of the school year, and although there probably isn’t anything new in this post, I figured I would join in on this week’s topic anyway.

As a teacher, you have so many things going on all at once and having an organized classroom helps me immensely when my brain is being pulled in multiple directions at the same time.  Here are a few things last year that helped keep my room organized, thus helped keep me somewhat sane all year!

  •  Command Hooks & Binder Clips – I think I got this idea from Sara Van Der Werf, but I’m not exactly sure.  It’s such a simple idea, but it’s been so useful, especially to keep papers that typically would have been in a pile on my desk off my desk and easy to find.  I use it to keep my list of students who need to make up tests along with the tests themselves.  I put seating charts on another one and class lists on another.  I also have one next to my calculators with the list of students and the calculator that’s assigned to them.


  • IMG_5363Calculators – At the start of the year I had two bins with calculators that I took out for students when they needed calculators.  This was a pain.  I was constantly checking to see if I got all the calculators back, and I learned that students do not know how to neatly put calculators back.  Partway through the year I decided to number the calculators and put them in the shoe holder I already had in my classroom for cell phones -it’s a school policy that this is where students put phones during class.  I assigned students who needed calculators a number in each class and posted it next to the shoe holder (using a command hook).  This worked SO much better than the bins!  It was easy for me to check at the end of class if all calculators were returned, and if one was missing, I knew who to talk to about the missing calculator.
  • Unit Binders – This may have been the biggest game changer for me this year.  In the past, I found the biggest binder I could and shoved all of my originals and answer keys in there for as many units as possible until it was full, and then I found another huge binder.  I would also have one pile of stuff I was currently using with the intent that I would file the stuff when the test was over.  I never did.  It was nearly impossible for me to find anything in these binders, so I didn’t really use them much.  This year, I decided make a binder for every unit for each of my classes.  I originally saw this from Gina Wilson, but I wanted ones to match my own units.  I recognized the fonts and created my own version to go with my classes.  My mom always says that if something makes you smile, you’ll use it.  She’s right.  These binders and covers make me smile.  This is the first year that I actually kept up with filing my originals and answer keys every week, every two weeks at the most.  In the front of the binders I also have the learning targets and vocab sheets I post on the board.



  • Task Card Bins – I have several (ok..more than several) bins of laminated task cards, card sorts, etc.  This year I have them labeled on the outside with the class, unit, and general topic of what’s inside.  On the top, I have a card with exactly what’s inside as well as how many copies I have of each.  (I also have a folder on my computer labeled “Activities” where I have folders for each unit for each class with the activities I have in these bins.  Then if I’m lesson planning at home I know what activities I already have copies of.)IMG_1388



  • Supply Bins – This isn’t anything new, but having these bins with labels on them have been great.  My classroom is right next to the senior locker bank/commons area.  They will often come in asking for scissors, glue, etc.  It’s nice that I can direct them to this area, and they can find what they need without having to stop whatever it is I’m doing.img_8377.jpg
  • Copies – I’ve been doing this for a few years now, but I have different colored file folders labeled with the days of the week for each of my classes.  I use these to keep the copies I need for that day.  I also have one for “last week’s copies” to keep handy if a student needs a new copy of something from the previous week.  My goal is to file the copies from 2 weeks ago every week, but that rarely happens…  One great thing about this system is that my co-teacher can easily find copies, and if I end up being gone unexpectedly, I can direct someone else here and they can find what they need.IMG_3192
  • Hand in/Return Bins – In the past, I had file folders for papers that needed to be returned to students in the same bin where I kept my copies.  I found this tray at a garage sale and thought it was perfect for this.  I’m terrible at returning papers to students, so having it sitting on the counter not only helped me remember to this, it also encouraged me to actually pass them back when I got sick of looking at the stacks in the trays.img_5027.jpg
  • Paper Tray – I got this tray for papers on my desk so that papers I still needed but didn’t want to deal with right away weren’t quite so cluttered on my desk.  If the stack became taller than the tray, it was time to deal with some of them.  I didn’t let myself have random stacks of papers other places on my desk.


I’m looking forward to reading the other Sunday Funday posts this week on organization to pick up a few more ideas from the rest of you to try to stay organized this year!

100 Numbers Task Version 2

Last year I used Sara Van Der Werf’s 100 Numbers task at the start of the year and LOVED it.  Absolutely loved it!  I can see myself using this in the first week of school for the rest of my career.  You can read Sara’s post here on why and how she uses it with her students.  I can almost guarantee your classroom will look exactly like Sara’s in her blog post.

This activity is awesome!  It has numbers so it seems mathy, even though it really isn’t.  It’s low risk and engages all students –every group ends up being a productive group simply by the nature of the task.  This allows us to have a conversation about what group work should look like in class throughout the entire year.  We’re also able to talk about how math is the study of patterns and that as mathematicians we notice patterns, describe patterns, and generalize patterns.  (I made a poster on that idea.  The blog post is here, and here’s Sara’s post on that topic.)

As I’m starting to put together plans for the first week of school, I plan on using this activity again.  The only problem is one of my classes is a group of students I had last year who have already done the activity.  I still want to review what good group work looks like as well as reiterate that math is the study of patterns, so I still want to do this activity with them again.  I thought about using the same sheet and having students count backwards like I had seen Sara do at a PD session one time.   Then I saw someone post on Twitter about creating different expressions for the numbers.  Brilliant!

I came up with this:

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I kept a pattern, but switched it up a bit from the original version.  If you divide the page into 4 quadrants and start in the upper left and move clockwise around, it goes 2-1-1 and then repeats the 2-1-1 in order to keep the total number of expressions in each quadrant the same.  You can sort of see this below.  The yellow is the first 4 numbers, purple is the next 4, green, and then blue.

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I would LOVE feedback on this.  I like it, but I think there’s room for improvement.  Below are some questions I have.

  • Is it too much?  Too busy?  Obviously the expressions take up more space than a single number so there is more on a page.  Is it too overwhelming?  Would I be better off going up to 50? or 75?
  • I had originally planned on using all operations, but when I finished I ended up only using addition and multiplication.  I decided this was ok because students will only have to focus on two operations, but is even 2 too many?  Would it be better to just have one operation?

I won’t have a chance to try this out with students for a few weeks, but if anyone uses it, I would love to hear how it goes.

Here’s the pdf version of what I made.

Update 8/17:  When I looked at the version I created the next day, I was a bit overwhelmed by all the numbers.  I figured my middle schoolers would likely be overwhelmed by it.  I updated the font and that helped a bit.

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After doing that I also took some of the expressions out and replaced them with the numbers.

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You can download pdf and word versions of both of those here.



Quote Posters 2017-2018

In the past 24 hours my excitement for the start of the school year has grown exponentially.  Up until yesterday afternoon, I wasn’t ready for the school year to start and for summer to be over.  I took a couple math courses this summer and finished up my last final yesterday, and as soon as I got home from working on that I was ready to start thinking about the school year.

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I really enjoy creating things for my classroom.  I like that I’m being productive, but it doesn’t feel like work.  Last year I shared some quote posters I had made in this post.  Every year I like to create a few new ones.   Last night when I got home, finding quotes for new posters was one of the first things on my list of things to do for school.

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I thought I’d share what I made in case anyone else wants to use them in their classroom.  Here is the link to download the posters, and again here is the link to last year’s post where you can download the other posters I’ve made.