Showing posts from September, 2014

Professional Goals

In my school district, once you receive 3 "excellent" ratings on your evaluations, you can move from having classroom observations to doing goals every other year.  I've had the privilege of doing this type of work for the past couple of years.  This year, it is time for me to come up with two professional goals.

One goal revolves around SBG… continuing my work and helping others do it too.
My second goal has to do with being more involved in expanding my professional development reach and getting involved more in professional organizations.  I reached out to Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics and offered to help with putting content on their Facebook page which I noticed hadn't had a post in a while.  Well, they took me up on my offer, so I'm now an editor on their page.  I'm excited for the chance to share some content that I think is relevant to the ICTM crowd!  Only, it's not really a crowd yet with only about 60 "likes."  
So… head…

How to Give Praise to Girls

This is a great article by Katrina Schwartz called "Giving Good Praise to Girls: What Messages Stick."

How to praise kids: It’s a hot topic for many parents and educators. A lot of the conversation around it has stemmed from studies by Carol Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford who has been researching this specific topic for many years. “My research shows that praise for intelligence or ability backfires,” said Dweck, who co-authored a seminal research paper on the effects of praise on motivation and performance. “What we’ve shown is that when you praise someone, say, ‘You’re smart at this,’ the next time they struggle, they think they’re not. It’s really about praising the process they engage in, not how smart they are or how good they are at it, but taking on difficulty, trying many different strategies, sticking to it and achieving over time.” But what some might not know is that this paradox is strongest for girls. Dweck’s research, which focuses on what makes peo…

It's Not About the Answer… It's About the Process

Yes, more of this!!!!

This teacher has students do a non-routine problem solving activity.  This is not about doing something the "right" way or even about getting the answer!  We need students to have interesting problems to challenge them and make them think.  After all, it's not really a "problem" if you can solve it in 5 seconds!

If you want your students to have some non-routine problems to try, check out Problems of the Month. I try doing these once per unit.

SBG: There, there, it'll be okay!

While I'm on maternity leave, I'm still checking in with some of my teacher friends to see how things are going.  Our principal has asked the staff to embark on a Standards Based Grading journey this year.  I've heard that some teachers are having a few struggles making this change and I think that is totally normal, expected, and okay!

It's about progress, not perfection!  I don't have all the answers about SBG either!  I tried it last year, and I liked how it made me think about what I'm teaching and I liked how my students responded.  I hope to help other teachers by letting them know what I tried, what worked, and what didn't, but I am still on the journey too! (You can check out some of my other posts about SBG here.)

I encourage my peers to continue on this journey.  Standards Based Grading helps students and helps us too.  It forces us to really define what it is we want our students to be learning.  It sets learning targets and makes it clear to o…

Students and Screen Time

Kids are great with technology and they love it!  I also love technology and am lucky to work in a district with 1:1 devices for our students.  Lately, though, I've been thinking about screen time and just how much time my students are spending on technology.

Here is what the American Academy of Pediatrics has to say about media and children:

Media is everywhere. TV, Internet, computer and video games all vie for our children's attention. Information on this page can help parents understand the impact media has in our children's lives, while offering tips on managing time spent with various media. The AAP has recommendations for parents and pediatricians. Today's children are spending an average of seven hours a day on entertainment media, including televisions, computers, phones and other electronic devices. To help kids make wise media choices, parents should monitor their media diet. Parents can make use of established ratings systems for shows, movies and games to a…

Questions I'm Thinking About

I'm starting to think about my presentation for the ICTM conference in October.  My topic is about how teachers' use of "tricks" has changed since Common Core.
"Tricks" would be things like "FOIL," "PEMDAS," "flip the second and multiply," "cross multiplication,"  "add a zero" when multiplying by 10, "two negatives make a positive," key words, etc…

Here are some questions that I posed to some of the math teachers in my district:

1. What trick(s) did you learn as a student or previously teach that you don't now?
2. Why did you abandon this(these) trick(s)?
3. What trick(s) do you still use in your teaching?
4. What makes this(these) trick(s) helpful or useful to your students?

I'm interested to hear their responses.  I want to be able to include some of their thoughts in my workshop.  I also plan to refer to "Nix the Tricks," which I wrote about a few months ago.

I also want to p…

Teacher Appreciation

Hey Chicagoland teachers!  Head over to Chick-fil-A tomorrow for a free chicken sandwich meal.

I love when businesses show teachers a little love!  I try to remember my school id when I go shopping because there are a few stores I shop at regularly that give discounts (including J Crew, Loft, and Banana Republic!).  Here is a list of some more stores that give discounts to teachers.

Baby in the City

My little one and I took a trip to the city last week.  After moving from the city to the suburbs last March, I was missing my old neighborhood and proximity to the lake path.  We walked along the lake and Natalie took a little snooze.

I'm trying to take full advantage of my time at home with her before I go back to school on October 20th!!

Common Misconceptions About Common Core

Common Core does not dictate how to teach or dictate a certain curriculum.  It is notnew math.  Mathematics educators were involved in their development.

For today, I've collected a few resources to help to clear up some misconceptions about Common Core.

"Common Core Math Is Not Fuzzy" from USA Today
"Veteran Teacher Punctures Myths Around Common Core" from Education Post

And Finally, the current president of NCTM wrote this message in July.
Core Truths
By NCTM President Diane J. Briars
July 2014 A little more than four years ago, on June 2, 2010, I was sitting with a small group of mathematics educators in the Peachtree Ridge High School auditorium in Suwanee, Georgia, on the occasion of the release of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Governors, state and district education leaders, business leaders, teacher union leaders, and a number of classroom teachers all described their strong support for CCSS and how having common, rigorous, world-class co…

The Trick That Can Help Find More Joy in Teaching

When I read this article from Babble called The Trick That's Helping Me Find More Joy in Parenting, I felt inspired to write a post in a similar style about teaching.

It's all about perspective.  I'm going to document a typical day of teaching from a "Glass-Half-Empty" point of view and then from a "Glass-Half-Full."  The purpose of this exercise is to highlight how a difference in perspective can help us to find the joy in teaching and to focus on the positives.

"Glass-Half-Empty" School Day

7:30 AM  I get to school later than I wanted to.  I was hoping to get some things done before my "office hours" where I provide extra help to kids.  Ugh.  I need to make copies and check email.  A teacher comes in to chat about the math curriculum… great, no time to make copies or check email!

7:40 AM  Office hours begin and no kids show.  Annoyed… why to I set time aside to help them if they aren't even going to come? Check email.

7:50 AM  Two…

5 Reasons for Inclusive Classes (No Tracking)

First, what are the reasons that we put kids in tracks?
-it makes it "easier" to differentiate
-traditionally we have done it, it was probably our experience as students, so now we do it
-some parents want it

My experience is in middle school and for me tracking has always felt wrong.  I'm sure high school is a little different but I bet some of my arguments below apply to high school too.  For my first 10 years of teaching, I couldn't quite articulate what it was that bothered me about tracking.  Now that I've been blogging, reflecting, and have a little more experience, I've been able to boil it down to five reasons.

Reason 1: Kids Get Stuck

Teachers are increasingly being asked to meet the needs of individual students.  While this sounds great, and in a perfect world it would happen, it doesn't always work.  Crowded classes, lack or resources, or lack of time are all things that prevent true differentiation.  Because of this, some school turn to tracki…

Taking Stock- September

I did this type of a post back in June.  I like the format, so I thought I would try it again!

Making: myself do some blogging… it's been a while!  It feels good to be back.
Cooking: I made shepherds pie last night… perfect for the chilly weather we've been having
Drinking: Wine… as usual. :)
Reading: The Husband's Secret is my book club's next book
Wanting: some new fall clothes
Planning: My return to teaching on October 20th
Playing: With my daughter… at 3 months she can grab and bat at toys!

Eating: peanut m&m's!
Wishing: I could both be a stay at home mom and a teacher
Enjoying: a little time to blog this morning while my kiddo snoozes
Waiting: for two family weddings at the beginning of October
Liking: carrying my little one around in this ring sling
Wondering: how teachers with kids balance their work and home lives
Loving: These videos.
Hoping: I stop seeing "teacher-bashing" on social media.

Marveling: at this weather… it's pretty chilly for September!

Giving Feedback Using Rubrics

Giving students (and parents) feedback is important.  One way we do this is by giving grades.  But by just giving general grades such as "85%" or "B" it is difficult for students and parents to understand how a student can improve.

Using rubrics is the best way I have found to give more specific feedback.  By identifying what it means to show understanding, I can then evaluate a students performance based on that criteria.  
Here is the general rubric that I use for each learning target in a unit:
I break each unit into 10-12 learning targets and assess the student using the rubric above.  You might notice that I don't go below 5.  My reasoning is that a 5/10 is a solid "F" and communicates the message of "minimal understanding" just fine.  I never give zeros anymore, they just are necessary. 

I also use rubrics for projects and other assignments.  For example, I have my students blog a few times a week.  Here is my rubric I use for bloggin…

Sunday Letters

Well, it's Monday and I'm behind already… I wanted to participate in writing "Sunday Letters!"  Through the magic of blogger, I can schedule this post for yesterday.  Yes!

I think this is such a cute idea and format for a blog post.  Thanks Michelle for the inspiration. :)

Dear Blog,
I'm sorry that I ignored you all summer!  It was too hard to take care of a newborn and update you at the same time.  I promise to make a better effort from now on.
With love,

Dear Natalie,
Thanks for being such a great kiddo!  I'm enjoying my time at home with you and watching you grow and change everyday.  I can't believe you are only 3 months old and at the same time can't believe you are already 3 months old!  Thank you also for being asleep in your swing right now so I can blog! :)

Dear Katie and Lauren,
Thank you for all you are doing to help fill in for my responsibilities while I am on maternity leave.  I know you have a lot on your plate already and …

Stop the Viral Homework Assignments!

Recently I wrote a blog post about a math assignment that had gone viral on social media.  Yesterday I came across yet another homework assignment that is getting shared all over Facebook.  This one is a social studies assignment that asks students to fill in a Venn Diagram comparing and contrasting Hitler and Bush.  People are f-r-e-a-k-i-n-g out!

I guess at first glance, it is kind of shocking to see Hitler's name next to an American president's name.  However, the assignment is to fill out a Venn Diagram.  A Venn Diagram is a graphic organizer used to compare and contrast.  There are certainly a few areas in where two leaders would overlap, but then there is also areas where they don't… that's the contrast past, right?  Why is it so bad for students to think critically about these two leaders?   Just memorizing names and dates is not what social studies should be about.  Being able to have these types of conversations are exactly what we should be encouraging in ou…


Every teacher should be mindful of equity in their classroom.  As a math teacher, I try to especially be aware that girls are getting an equitable education experience.  
Today I thought I would share two great resources.  One is a list of tips from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics:
Tips on Supporting All Students: Equity and Diversity "Equity" and "Diversity" are very deep topics, and as such, there are dangers in boiling them down to a list of tips. The following is not a list of activities one does to be equitable or to celebrate diversity, and should not be looked at as such. Rather, the goal is to provide a starting point for considering equity and supporting diversity within our classrooms. The following headings are very broad reminders of how we can continue our efforts to achieve the goal of a mathematics education experience that is equitable and celebrates diversity. Equity does not mean equal. When considering how equitable one's teac…