Good Things: Year 7. Week 1.

Volume 1 | Volume 2 | Volume 3 | Volume 4Volume 5 | Volume 6 | Volume 7Volume 8 | Volume 9 | Volume 10 | Volume 11


I love the first week of school, but I’ll be honest, I love a few weeks down the road more -when I know my students, they know me, and we’re in a routine.

I think that’s why many of my good things from this past week of school (my first week for the year) came from students I had last year.  It felt like we picked up right where we left off.


A student walked in and excitedly asked, “How was your Desmos thing?!”

I overheard another student, “She got a new sign.” as she pointed to the wall.

I was sharing a bit about myself and had a picture of my cousin’s daughters up because I spend quite a bit of time with them.  Another student asked, “Which one is the ABC girl?”  (Last year I shared with them a video of the youngest singing the ABCs.)

All of that happened in the first 10 minutes.

And later when I was going through Name Tents, a different student asked if my cousin’s daughter ever learned out how to “stop the ABCs” (She would get to the end and sing, “now I know my abc….defg…” and it was an infinite loop.)

My heart was full.  We didn’t just learn math together last year in my room.  We learned about each other and what’s important to us outside of school, and we asked each other about those things.

And it gave me hope and reminded me that I’ll get there with my other classes too.

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When I was introducing my favorite first week problem (thanks Fawn!), I asked them what they thought I would tell them after they solved it, and a chorus of students enthusiastically said, “Try to find another way to solve it!”  It was almost as if I had told them to say that and they rehearsed.  It was music to my ears.

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And when I tried to interrupt them seconds after giving them the problem because I forgot to give part of the directions, I couldn’t because they were already too into the problem.

I didn’t even care that they didn’t stop to listen.

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The day after we started that problem a student pulled these out while her group was working on it.  I was maybe a little bit too excited about this.  I immediately wanted to have enough of them so that we could “act” out the entire problem.

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Name tents.

Middle schoolers really know how to make you feel good the first week of school.

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100 Numbers Activity.

I think this will forever be one of my favorites.  And every year I laugh when the students I’ve had for the second time are shocked that I was taking pictures while they were working -they knew I did it when I had them the first time!

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Set.

I LOVE using Set the first week with my 6th graders to introduce them to some of my routines.  I start by doing a notice/wonder with it.  Then I had students do a Stand and Talk and had students talk about what they noticed.

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Then later in the week, once students understand how to play Set, I pull out all my decks, put students in groups, and have them play.  This is also the perfect way to revisit what we talked about on day 1 when it comes to group work in math.

 

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My week ended with a student coming in my room after school on Friday with the problem we had been working on all week.  It was not assigned, yet she so badly wanted to figure it out that she was working on it outside of class.  ♥

What a perfect way to end the week and start my weekend!

Good Things: Volume 11

Volume 1 | Volume 2 | Volume 3 | Volume 4| Volume 5 | Volume 6 | Volume 7| Volume 8 | Volume 9 | Volume 10

One of my favorite parts of this week was completely unplanned and pretty much happened on accident.  This is something I can see myself doing every year, and I think you should try it too, which is why I’m sharing!


My students are taking their state test this coming week during their regularly scheduled class period.  I teach all middle school, so all of my classes have to take the state test.  SO I get to proctor tests all. day. long. for four days next week.  (Bright Side:  Lesson plans for next week were done in record time!)

When my students realized I would be proctoring tests all day long, they started asking what I would do all day.  After telling them I’m not allowed to do much of anything other than actively monitor them, they came up with some pretty crazy ideas for me.  (Put pages of books on the walls so I can read while I walk my room.  Paint eyes on my eyelids so I can sleep but it will look like I’m awake.  Call in sick all week. Ha!)

In one class, someone said that they should write an I Spy for me to play in my classroom while I walk around.  We joked about it, and moved on.

A few of them however didn’t forget about it.

At the end of the class, one student handed me a piece of paper with things for me to find.

  • Find how many s’s are on the poster above your door.
  • How many red squares do you have around your room?
  • How many signs or posters are on the front side of your classroom?

 

Then the next day another student walked in and handed me this.

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She came up with these creative ideas on her own, typed it up, and printed it out.  What?!  It’s so great and made me smile.  I mean, how can you read, “Think of the Kool-Aid man bursting through the window.” and not smile?!

We had a few extra minutes of class today, so I asked them to come up with other ideas.  Some were so funny, and I found myself laughing out loud at some of them.  Others were super creative, and I found myself smiling over their fun ideas.

  • “Imagine your favorite book and imagine you are in the book.”
  • “ABC games find something that starts in an A then something that starts with a B and so on.”
  • “What kind of house would you build if you lived in a Minecraft world”
  • “Plan a trip around the world”
  • “Count how many people sneeze/cough during MCA’s.  (I really want to know).”
  • “Make up a letter, what it looks like, and how it sounds”
  • “How many inspirational signs can you find around the room?”
  • “Make up a number without using other ones.”
  • “How many laminated posters are there?”  (I blame the MTBoS for my laminating obsession!)
  • “Look for all the letters of the alphabet from A-Z in this room.”
  • “Think of a childhood song.  Then try to get it out of your head.  Example:  ABC’s”
  • “Think of what you would do if you didn’t have to walk up and down the rows.”
  • “Think of as many digits of pi as possible (My best 78 as of 5th grade)”
  • “How many ‘mistakes’ are in the room?”  (I love that they notice my emphasis on normalizing mistakes!)
  • “How many times can you see your face in your pictures by the desk?”  (There’s A LOT thanks to my MTBoS wall.)

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So if you’ve got several hours of proctoring tests coming up in the next few months, ask your students how you should use your time!  It was a great light-hearted and fun way to end the last day leading up to our state tests.

Good Things: Volume 10

Volume 1 | Volume 2 | Volume 3 | Volume 4| Volume 5 | Volume 6 | Volume 7 | Volume 8 | Volume 9

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My students have continued to enjoy our play table.

I got those on Amazon.

Those are Lego knock-offs from Target the dollar section.

I had a couple students who came early every day to class after lunch and each day they would try to balance a larger cube like that.

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I went to a math Ed Camp hosted by MCTM, and it was a great day of connecting with local math teachers!

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I’ve already tried a couple ideas people shared at the Ed Camp.  Jess Strom mentioned that she loves combining Open Middle problems with Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces.  I tried it, and it was my favorite day of Open Middle problems yet! I found that students were more engaged and on task with the problem than when they do it on paper.

Students were working on this problem and this one.

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I pulled out Jay Chow’s Desmos Breakout activities recently for the first time this year.  Students always enjoy these so much.  You can find all of his activities here.  If you haven’t seen these yet, check them out!  They are awesome!

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The makers of Set came out with a new game, and it’s great!

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One of my students had an awesome way of thinking about converting 5/8 to a percent.

“Well, we already wrote 1/8 as a percent today and that was 12.5%, and I know that 4/8 is 50%.  I added 12.5% and 50% to get 62.5%.”

I use this method quite a bit with other types of problems, especially when finding percents of dollar amounts, but I hadn’t thought to use it in this direction – going from fractions to percents.  I love learning from my students!

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I had a couple of students debating over multiple days about whether 0/0 would be 100% or 0%.  In this class, we had not been covering percents and this debate was completely student initiated.  We did talk about 0/0 being undefined and sort of an irrelevant question, but they were debating that if you HAD to pick 0% or 100%, which would it be.  I loved listening to their arguments for which one they thought it was.

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The last couple years I’ve introduced the Pythagorean Theorem using Notice/Wonder, and I’ve liked how this has gone.  I really like how more of my students continue to think of the what is happening visually after introducing it this way.

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Last year I used Dan Meyer’s Taco Cart for the first time.  It was the first 3 Act I’d ever done and it was a spur of the moment decision to try it when I found out last minute that nearly half my class was gone for the day.  I used it again this year, and I felt like I facilitated it a little better than I did the first time.  I made adjustments to how we did this activity on the fly, and I was proud of myself for that.  Students are turning in their solutions on Monday, and I hope to write a short post on how this went soon.

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We used one of my favorite Polygraphs recently.  I absolutely love this one for angle pairs in 6th grade.

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We had a crazy couple months after Christmas break with several cold days, snow days, and late starts.  We had a brown Christmas, and ended February with normal amounts of  snow for MN.  It’s finally starting to warm up and the snow is melting.  Normally I don’t like this time of year when the snow gets muddy and the grass is brown; however, I’ve never been so happy to see brown grass as I have this year.

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Another idea shared at the MN EdCamp by May Vang was to give students examples of a vocal word and have them come up with the definition.  I tried this with rational and irrational numbers, and it didn’t quite go how I envisioned with my first class, so I changed things up with the second class.  It went better, but still not as well as I had hoped.  So I changed it slightly for the 3rd class, and it went much better.  I added some notice/wonder to the prompt, and it made all the difference.  No surprise there.  I don’t know why it took me three tries to add that to the prompt.

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A student stopped in my room after school one day this week with a baggie of seashells, “I keep forgetting to bring these to class.  I got these shells when we were on vacation, and they’re for you.”  She thought of her math teacher while on vacation.  How did I get so lucky to be apart of these kids’ lives??

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It was a work day in 8th grade this Friday, so I put on some of the NCAA basketball games.  A little math and some March Madness.  I can’t think of a better way to head into the weekend.

Good Things: Volume 9

Volume 1 | Volume 2 | Volume 3 | Volume 4| Volume 5 | Volume 6 | Volume 7|Volume 8

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There have been many more opportunities for my students to “play” with math this year in my classroom.  This has sort of happened by accident as I don’t feel that I have been super intentional about this, but this is definitely an area that I want to be more intentional about -creating more opportunities for all of my students to play with math.  These times when students are playing with math have been some of my absolute favorite times in my classroom this year, and I want to find ways to incorporate this more regularly in my classroom and incorporate it into my curriculum compared to something that is done in spare moments.


My play table continues to be one of my favorite things in my room.  I went to Target numerous times to find the Christmas building blocks and had them out the two weeks prior to Christmas break.

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In the afternoon on the last day before break, we have different activities for students set up in different classrooms (decorating Christmas cookies with our cooks, a Christmas craft, a bean bag tournament, dodgeball, karaoke, a Christmas movie, etc.), and they get to hang out and go to the different activities.  I had  group of students ask if I would open up my room so they could continue working on building with the blocks.  It was fun to see them all work together to create something.

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Here’s their final creation.

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After Christmas I had these hexagon blocks from Target out on the play table.  They are several years old, and I keep waiting for Target to get them in again.  One student came in after lunch the first day they were out, “Oh my gosh!  Where did you get those? I need to add them to my birthday list!”  When I told her they were old, she still wanted to take a picture of them to add to her birthday list.

I also had a student tell me that he got Kanoodle for Christmas after he played it in class.  I love love love that my students are enjoying these mathy toys enough to want them at home!

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Another thing my students have been loving are making flextangles.  I’ve shared the video before, but I’ll share it again.

They’ve continued to ask to make these when they have some spare time.  We just finished up fraction stations, and I had many students ask to make these when they finished.

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I even had one student cut out the little tiny Pattern Guide in the corner of the template and glue that together to make one!

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Balance.  In the past year and a half, I’ve had MUCH better balance in my life.  As much as that should be a good thing, I honestly struggled with it for quite a while.  I’ve been meaning to write a post about this, but here it is in short.  I felt like I wasn’t doing enough as a teacher since I rarely work on the weekends now or take things home with me.  Because my weekends were finally a time for me to recharge personally rather than try to stay afloat as a teacher, I would spend Sunday nights dreading having to go back to work and felt guilty for not looking forward to going back to school.  A couple weeks ago, I had a realization about this, and since then I’ve been able to truly enjoy my time at school AND my time at home.  Again, that’s a post for another day, but it’s been SUCH a good thing for me to have had that realization.

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I had a group of students that were ahead in one of my classes, so last minute I decided I wanted to see if I could try some coding with them.  I’ve seen Ashley, one of the creators of the site CS and Math, post a lot about this on Twitter.  I reached out to her, and she responded so quickly and was super helpful!  I had pretty much no previous experience with Scratch, and it had been years since I’d taken computer science in my undergrad.  In an hour or so, I was able to familiarize myself with Scratch thanks to this post.  My students were able to figure out Scratch on their own thanks to the hyper doc in that post.  Many of my students that tried this absolutely LOVED coding!  This is definitely something I plan on incorporating more of in my classroom.

The following is part of what students create in the introduction hyper doc.

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These next three are things that students created in this lesson.

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We were testing in 7th grade.  I overheard one of my students encouraging the girl sitting next to him to be positive about the test.  From their conversation, I gathered that the girl often says she will do poorly on the test.  He told her she can’t be positive about doing poorly either, since she often says things such as, “I am positive I won’t do well on this.”  His then went on to say because a positive and a negative is still a negative.  I had to smile at this.  I loved that he was encouraging this student, and even incorporated math in his encouragement.  🙂

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Last week I had my students create their own marbleslides.  (See this post and this one.)  This is one of my absolute favorite things I do with my students.  Here are a few of their creations.  Be on the lookout for a post on this in the future with more of their creations.

One student asked, “Why are you being so nice and letting us play games all hour?”  I don’t know if he was implying that I’m usually not nice… 😉  I had some examples from last year up when he asked that, and my response was, “Look at all the math that is involved in this!  I am more than happy to let you play with this all day!”

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Good Things: Volume 8

Volume 1 | Volume 2 | Volume 3 | Volume 4| Volume 5 | Volume 6 | Volume 7

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Several weeks ago, we got to watch our middle school play.  I love seeing my students excel outside of the classroom.  They did a great job with the play Transyl-Mania!

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I still have students asking if they can work on Desmos Mini Golf Marbleslides months after we did it in class.  It makes my heart happy that they not only remember doing this activity, but enjoy it enough to want to work on it in their spare time in class.

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I overheard some of my 8th grade girls talking about one of their pens (a Flair pen).  The girl said that I inspired her to get the pens because I have them.  It was cute.  I did nothing to “inspire” her other than use them in class.

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I had my students create their own equation puzzles, and they crushed it!  They came up with so many creative puzzles!

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My response to a student’s question was, “We’re all in this together.”  Without missing a beat, a student broke out into High School Musical.

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I used Julie Reulbach’s method to introduce equations to my 6th graders.  This is one of my favorite things I do with them.

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We were going over a few examples of equations in class, and I had several students with their hands raised before I even asked a question.  I pointed this out, and ended by saying that maybe they do know what I’m going to ask.  They then proceeded to go through the example and ask the guiding questions that I would have through the entire problem.

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Not entirely math or school related, but I put my Christmas tree up last weekend.  I know it’s early, but I wasn’t sure what my weekends would look like the next couple weeks, and I LOVE having the tree up and wanted to enjoy it as much as possible.  Christmas ornaments have always been super special in my family.  It started when I was a little girl and every year my aunt would make an ornament each year for everyone and my grandma on the other side would also paint a ceramic ornament each year.  My aunt and my grandma have both passed away, so those ornaments are now extra special.  My mom always gets ornaments to remember special events, whether it’s a trip throughout the year or a big event that happened that year.  I’ve started doing this too.  I smiled when I put up my TMC ornaments

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My mom, cousin, and I have carried on the tradition of making an ornament each year.  I was pretty excited that Target came out with holiday building blocks.  I’ve spent a lot of time this past year playing with different mathy toys with my cousin’s daughters, so I thought this would be the perfect ornament for this year.  I’m happy with how they turned out.

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Another non-math Good Thing, but I saw this planner, and knew I’d found my planner for next year.

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Basketball season has started.  I’m convinced that God made basketball a winter sport because he knew Minnesotans needed it to get through our awful winters.  Basketball is a huge thing in my family since my dad still coaches.  Part of the reason I look forward to it every year is because it means time with family in the gym.  I also love that my middle schoolers ask whenever they have games if I’ll be there doing clock.  I love that it matters to them that I’m there.

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Middle schoolers’ giggles.  I love the sound of innocent middle school giggles.  I’ve got a group of students who have been coming to my room after lunch to play with the stuff on my play table and just hang out in a quieter space than the lunch room.  This week they made up their own HedBanz game.  I loved the sound of their giggles every day in my room.  On Friday, I had a group of boys first hour get the giggles as they were working.  It was a great way to start the day.

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I had an 8th grader come to me before class Friday morning.  She told me she was going to be leaving early and wondered if she could take the test first hour during her study period.  When I brought the test to the teacher, the teacher was unaware that she was leaving and had asked to work on the test early.  That means she took it upon herself to plan ahead and take initiative to get the test taken!!!  I LOVE when I start to see middle schoolers take responsibility.

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I had the warm-up on the board Friday, most of my students were working.  I was getting ready to go prompt one student to get started when he said, “I suppose I should probably do something.”  Again, I love when I start to see students monitor their own behavior!

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Every Friday we do Hats for Hearts and the proceeds go to one of our secretaries who is battling cancer.  Students pay $1 and get a sticker to put on their hat, which tells us as teachers that they are able to wear their hat for the day.  One student had a sticker on his shirt and wasn’t wearing a hat.  I asked if he just gave money to the cause.  He did.  I love the hearts of these kids!

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Our high school play this fall was Clue.  Clue was the game I always played with my grandma when I would go to her house growing up.  We are nearing the 1-year anniversary of her passing away.  Every time I saw the posters for the play up around school, I thought of her.  In my 5 years at my school, the middle schoolers have never gotten to go to the performance of the high school play during the school year.  This year we did, and I don’t think that was a coincidence.  I thought of her throughout the entire performance.

One Good Thing: Volume 7

My students are starting to get into the play table more, and it’s like having a little piece of Math on a Stick in my own classroom!  Right away as they discovered these, they started doing things I never would have thought to do!  I love it!

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We’ve been working on area in 6th grade, and I’ve shown students several GIFs to help them understand the formulas.  One student commented, “All of these GIFs are just so perfect for this!  Where do you find them?!”  I love when they appreciate things I’m sharing with them.

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A pair of students called me over and asked, “Can you help us?  We’re arguing over here.”  Me:  “Arguing?  Over math?!  I LOVE it!”

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I’ve done a worksheet like this in a couple different classes this week, and I LOVE how persistent my students have been.  I know that these types of worksheets can be frustrating because students are forced to get a correct answer rather than just move on, but for the most part, they’ve embraced the challenge.

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We played the game linked in this post this week and a students’ comment as she left class, “PLEASE tell me we’re going to play that again.  THAT was fun!”

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I’ve been sick this week, and one day my eyes get really watery several times throughout the day.  One student was in the middle of a sentence when she looked at me and with genuine concern asked, “Are you ok?”  These kids.  I just love them so much.

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One of my lessons this week did not go how I hoped.  We were working on simplifying expressions.  Every year I’ve taught this I’ve forgotten where students are when they come to me.  When planning this lesson, I always think of where the prior year’s group ended -not remembering how much that group had learned over the course of the year.  Anyway, the lesson combined too many new things together too quickly.  As I was teaching, I knew it wasn’t going that well, but I didn’t know how to improve the lesson on the fly.  I made a slight change from the first class to the next class that helped a bit, but I ended the day frustrated with myself for forgetting how this lesson had gone the previous year.

We came back the next day and did an Open Middle (more on that later), reviewed briefly before going to the whiteboards for some Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces.  They ROCKED it that day!  They were so focused and worked so hard!  I was SO proud of them!

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I introduced students to Open Middle.  Because it was the first time students were introduced to this type of problem, I wanted them to feel success without it being too easy.  I think this problem worked well with my goals.  At first students were confused, and I sensed some were hesitant to even get started because they were unsure of themselves.  However, once they grasped what was being asked and dove in, they were able to solve the problem, and most often come up with more than one solution.  Cheers of excitement could be heard throughout my room as students successfully solved the problem.

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We followed that one up with another one the next day and they dove right in.

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The 8th grade football players were practicing as I was leaving school one day this week. A few of my 8th grade boys noticed me leaving and started waving at me -it wasn’t just your typical wave.  It was the practically jumping up and down because they’re waving so big kind of wave.  What a great way to end the day!

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A student as he left class, “Thank you for teaching me today.”

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Friday High Fives have turned into a Friday hug with one of my 6th graders.  6th graders are just the sweetest.

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I wore my Desmos shirt for the first time this year.  I got by far more comments on that shirt than anything else I’ve worn this year -both from current and former students.  Some students thought it was cool.  Some asked, “WHY do you have a Desmos shirt?” and now think I’m even weirder than I was before.  🙂  One girl asked, “Does Desmos sponsor you or something?”  When I told her no, she replied, “Well they should.”  Haha!

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A couple of groups finished what they were working on earlier than the rest of the class. Without prompting, they started helping other groups.  It was like having 3 or 4 teachers in the room as these students walked about the room asking groups if they had questions.  These kids.  I tell you.  How did I get so lucky that I get to spend my days with them?

First Days Good Things

 

On day 1 I used Sara’s 100 Numbers Task again.  Every year I am reminded of how much I love it!  It leads to great discussion on group work and how math is the study of patterns.  My classroom looked like this on day 1 with middle schoolers!

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I also got to try out the new version of the task that I created.  I definitely liked this version better than the one I created last year.  It’s also fun for me to see that I’m able to make improvements to things I’ve done in the past.

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As my first class was close to finishing, I remembered being reminded of Glenn’s high fives at TMC and decided to give it a try.  That’s not a typical thing for me to do, but it was easier for me to do with my 6th graders -give a high five and say “Way to go!  You made it through your first class of middle school!”  (One 6th grader, “If I didn’t have my hands full of my books, I would hug you right now.”  They are the best!)  I debated whether or not to do it with my 7th and 8th graders later in the day.  I decided since it was the first day to just go for it.  Some of them acted too cool for it, but I was sort of surprised at how many students smiled because of it, and because of that I decided to make it a first week thing and plan to make it a Friday thing after that.  Today was day 2 and more students waited for their high five rather than trying to rush out the door and less students acted too cool for it.  🙂

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I had a student thank me as he left my room.  I know that is the norm for some places, but it is definitely not the norm in my school.

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I have bigger classes than I’ve had in the past and was a bit worried about how that would go.  So far so good!

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I used Fawn Nguyen’s Noah’s Ark problem and had students thank me for making them do some work on the first day of school, use “challenged” and “fun” in the same sentence, and ask why it’s my favorite.  After learning from Fawn this summer, I realized I need to let my students know when I’m excited about something we’re doing.  I don’t always do a good job of that and want that to be something I work on this year.

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I debated whether or not I should use Sara Van Der Werf’s name tents with my 7th and 8th graders since I had them already as 6th graders, but in the end I decided to.  I was reminded day 1 that they are still a great way to learn about my students.  I’ve already learned a ton of stuff I never would have learned without them.

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It felt like I picked up with my 7th and 8th graders right where I left off.  I loved having them come in and already know my expectations and procedures.  (They even remembered the goals for math talks!)

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I have prep 5th hour this year, and only have 2 classes left after that.  I’m used to having 3 classes after my lunch or prep, and my afternoons are going so much quicker!

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Twitter to the rescue when it comes to hanging up posters!  I threw this out there and thought someone might have an idea for me and was shocked at how many people did! Many of the responses I got are for brick walls, and my walls aren’t brick. However, I will still have plenty of other things to try!

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I introduced one class of 6th graders to Set today!  I used notice/wonder to introduce the game for the second year in a row, and it went so well!  I also had a few students already familiar with the game!  I don’t know that that’s happened before!

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We were working on the Noah’s Ark problem again today, and a student said, “I was working on this last night at home…”  It wasn’t assigned.  🙂  I nearly hugged the student.

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I recently moved and when I was talking with a coworker yesterday it came up that I don’t have a microwave yet.  She had an extra one from her kids at home and brought it for me today.  My coworkers are so great!

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I was finally able to make a play table happen in my classroom.  So far, not many students have engaged with it, but I’m excited for more students to start playing!  I didn’t last year because I wasn’t quite sure where to put it, but I was able to find a place next to my desk.  I’m really excited about that because I hope to be able to connect with and chat with students while they are playing and I’m sitting at my desk.

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A former student emailed me tonight asking if I would proofread her English essay.  Making connections and forming relationships with students is the best part of this job.

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Finding “one good things” is easier now than it was when I first started writing these.  🙂