Collecting Evidence…

Our district is in the process of transitioning to standards-referenced grading.  I’ve been using standards-based practices in my classroom for years, so this really isn’t anything new to me.  However, the reporting aspect is usually where everyone gets hung up, myself included.  How do we accurately reflect student learning?  Because we are standards-referenced and not standards-based, we still will use letter grades to ultimately report student progress.  Teachers will enter a 1, 2, 3, or 4 based on a student’s level of proficiency and our online grade book will convert that to a percentage based on a 100% scale.  While that in itself could be discussed until my youngest child becomes an old man… I’d prefer to talk about how to gauge student progress.

The words assess, re-assess, and retake all get thrown around and teachers discuss and debate all the time the right way to determine student learning.  I’ve decided to go with a whole new approach this year where hopefully those words won’t be uttered in my classroom.

This year I’m going to collect evidence.  I’m not going to give a quiz or a test or a formative or summative assessment.  I’m just going to collect evidence.  And I’m going to collect multiple pieces of evidence over time…much like a crime show gathers evidence to determine a suspect’s guilt or innocence.  The more evidence a detective has, the more confident that detective is in solving the case.  (I’m watching Blue Bloods on Netflix while I exercise…can you tell?)

I’m creating “folders” for each standard for each of my classes.  Students will store their evidence on those folders and record their progress on the outside of those folders.  There will only be 1’s, 2’s, 3’s, and 4’s on the outside of their folders along the name of the evidence.

The best part of an online community is the collaboration of other teachers.  A few years ago, I met a colleague through Twitter.  He just so happens to teach across town so we’ve been able to get together from time to time.  He sent me a way to determine a student’s final mark regarding progress toward a standard and I’m very excited to try it out.

Students will provide evidence at least 3 times and be given a 1 (beginning), 2 (progressing), 3 (meeting), or 4 (advanced) as already defined by proficiency scales that have already been created (or are in process of being finished as I type this – which is another blog post, but has been a game changer when it comes to determining student progress).

The final mark will be determined through professional judgement (the art of teaching) using the mode of scores in combination with the most recent score.

This year our grade book will not automatically do the calculation so I’m going to use the following scale to assign a grade as I am required to do:

1 – 50%

2 – 70%

3 – 90%

4 – 100%

I have multiple goals with this.

  1. Be prepared for when the district is in full implementation of SRG.
  2. Take the focus off of grades and put that focus onto learning. – THIS IS THE ULTIMATE GOAL!!
  3. Eliminate the dreaded retake process.  Learning is on a continuum.  There isn’t an end date.  Students will (hopefully) learn that if the evidence doesn’t show what they want the first time, there will be other opportunities to provide more evidence.

There are tons of other goals as well… but those are the big 3.

How much confidence do I have in this?  I’m super excited to move away from “quizzing” and “testing” students.  I’ve been assessing multiple times for several years, so it’s basically a change in terminology which again I’m super excited about.  But I really have no idea… when it’s new, it’s new and I’m attempting to #sucklesseveryday.  (another Dave Richard idea that I have “borrowed”).

Peace, Love, Math, and collecting evidence…


Intro to Graphing Polynomials

Yes, it’s been way too long since I’ve blogged about activities going on in my classroom.  That’s what happens when I have 4 preps… sorry!

This week in Algebra 2 we started our polynomial unit, and I was out of the building Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  So I started the students with polynomial operations since I felt it was a skill they could do without me.  I created videos each day for them to watch and take notes and then used Delta Math to practice.  They learned how to name and classify polynomials as well as add/subtract and multiply.  I used a lot of Sarah Carter‘s stuff on polynomials.

Today we started on graphing polynomials. Of course we started with DESMOS Polygraph:  Polynomials.  The students don’t have all the language yet, but they were able to discuss intercepts, opening up/down and then they got into the bumps and humps which produced quite a bit of laughter…

Moving on with about 30 minutes left of class.

I had them glue in this graph organizer that I created based on something I’d seen somewhere else.  It looks like this and can be found here:

polynomial end behavior

I knew I wanted the students to investigate how this works, so that I wasn’t just giving them notes.  But it took me a while to figure out a way that would be effective and manageable.  Here’s what I came up with…

I created 7 functions for each of the 4 different possibilities.  Here’s a link to the Google Doc with the different functions.  I divided the students up into 4 groups simply by numbering off.  And then gave the following instructions:

polynomial function jigsaw instructions

When I gave the instructions for finding similarities of the graphs, I did encourage them to look at the arrows.  We talked about if the graph went off the page in DESMOS, add an arrow to their graph on paper

I was constantly walking around asking probing questions like what do all the leading terms have in common?  The students were able to see the commonalities in the leading coefficients (positive or negative).  But the leading terms were a little more challenging.  The only questions I asked were:  “what do 2 and 4 have in common?”  “What do 3 and 5 have in common?”.  At least 2 in every group were able to identify even/odd.

When looking at the graphs, I encouraged them to look from left to right.  The prompting questions I used were:  “where are the arrows on the left?” “where are the arrows on the right?”… there were a lot of “ohhhh, they all point down” or “they all point up”.

Once each group was confident in their own commonalities, they did a gallery walk to see how the other graphs were different from theirs.  They got 1-minute at each poster to notice and discuss similarities and differences.

Then they went back to their own desks and we looked at the graph organizer.  All classes were able to identify each of these graphs.  I had them point to the station that fit the description.  They were dead on every time.  This is what we filled out in our graphic organizer:


On Monday I will have some kind of entry activity where they identify “arrow” behavior.  I haven’t talked about what end behavior is… just the arrows.

This went way better than expected with the exception of 1 class which is always much harder to manage.  They didn’t get to do the gallery walk.  Instead I had each group tell me the characteristics of their graphs.  It was not nearly as effective as the classes that did the gallery walk.  The gallery walk embedded the behavior into their brains.  That was the key AFTER they had become confident in their own graphs.

Here are the pictures of the posters from my last class:


This was a great activity for a Friday.  It got them up and moving around.  They were collaborating and for the most part everyone did a good job.  I was able to walk around and talk to all the groups and nudge those students who weren’t actively working… it was very accessible to all students.

I’m excited to see where this goes and how they make connections to the specifics of the graphs once we get there.

Goal for 2018-19

As part of #MTBoSBlaugust, I’ve been reading blog after blog after blog of great ideas, inspirational first day ideas, and more.  Recently I read @Druinok ‘s post on goals for the year, and I realized that I haven’t actually reflected on or determined my actual goals for the year.  I was able to get some ideas down at the end of last year.  Here’s what I wrote in May:

I will maximize student engagement with the use of small group instruction and student centered learning opportunities.

Action Steps:

  • Use of small group instruction at least 2 times a week.
  • Creation of differentiated student-centered learning opportunities determined by formative assessment data.

I’m in a new building this year, teaching 3 new classes.  Right now it’s hard to think about actual teaching strategies when frankly I’m just focused on content planning.  I’ve spent most of the summer writing assessments and skill lists – which have evolved and changed several times already.

I’m just wondering if my goal should be simpler somehow.  I like it as it’s written.  I guess I’m just wondering if I can pull it off.


Peace, Love, Math… ~MSH

First Days – Individual and Group Activities

Here’s my blog post on some activities that I have ready in my arsenal for our first days back to school.  We start Thursday, August 23rd.

None of these activities are original to me.  Disclaimer – one of the reasons I feel like an impostor in the #MTBoS is because I just take what everyone else provides and uses it for myself.  (I promise a blog on Music Cues is coming)

Here is my Google Slides presentation for all of the activities that I’m going to describe:

Welcome Back

  1.  Name Tents – this is Sara Vander Werf’s brain child and a description can be found here.  However, I do add my own question prompts which this year will be:
    • Day 1:  What do you notice about the first day – either here in this classroom or in general?
    • Day 2:  What do you wonder about this coming school year?
    • Day 3:  What are you most interested in?
    • Day 4:  What qualities do you look for in a teacher?
    • Day 5:  What are your strengths and how might we use them in this class?
  2. Frayer a Classmate – this activity was found in the EduProtocols book which I described in my #MathFam blog post.  I plan to have students do this in pairs and rotate to a different classmate to fill in each quadrant.  That way they learn 4 classmates on the first day.  On the Google Slides you can see the 4 quadrants that I decided to use:
    • Describe your classmate’s physical features (hair, eyes, height, etc).
    • Describe your classmate’s family (parents, guardians, grandparents, siblings, pets, etc)
    • What are 4 things that your classmate likes?
    • What are 4 things that your classmate does not like?
  3. 100 Numbers Class Activity – this is one of my favorites of all time.  Again Sara Vander Werf is amazing at providing these great group work activities.  You can read about it HERE. I run it pretty much as described.  I probably won’t do this with Algebra 2 since they most likely did it last year as there were a couple of us who did it.  I’ll do it with Geometry this year for sure.
  4. Build It – this came from Sarah Carter who got it from Stanford (scroll down in the blog post I linked to find her description).  This is more for developing group work and I plan to do this with Geometry.  Each group member gets a clue card that they can read to the group but the group can’t have access to it.  The goal is for everyone to share their clue to build the correct shape.
  5. Cup and String ChallengesCori Colby gave me the idea for this and I can’t wait to see how it goes.  I added a twist to each of the challenges.  Basically there are 3 or 4 strings (2 feet long) attached to a rubber band.  Group members must use the strings to adjust the rubber band to attach to a cup and then stack the 6 cups that each group has.  The first challenge is just to stack them on top of each other.  Then try doing it without talking at all.  The 3rd challenge is to stack them into a pyramid.  The 4th challenge is to stack them into a pyramid with 1 group member blindfolded.

Obviously, I’m not going to do all of these on day 1 – but I have them in my toolbox and we will see how the days go.  I’m ready at least – I have all of the activities ready to go (well except for attaching the string to the rubber bands – I’m doing that on my car ride tomorrow – 4 hour trip to the lake).

A HUGE THANK YOU to everyone who shares their activities for these first days.  I am HUGELY GRATEFUL!!!!

Bring on Day 1!!

Peace, Love, Math~MSH


Radical Self-Care… Lift Heavy and Sprint

In my 2nd #MTBoSBlaugust post – I want to tell you about my radical shameless, selfish self-care.  Teaching is very hard work – there is no doubt.  It’s so important for teachers to find something that fills them up, renews their spirit, and keeps them healthy to take on this challenging job.

I lift weights.  I lift heavy weights (or what I consider heavy for a mid-40’s gal).  Working out has become my safe haven.  Here’s the story of how I have become shameless and selfish in taking care of myself.

I’ve always considered myself an active person.  I was an athlete all growing up and through college.  It has taken most of my adult life to find a workout regimen that I enjoy.  Early on in adulthood, I missed the hard softball workouts that left me all spent.  I missed the tumbling classes where I would literally fall into bed so exhausted.  I missed cheerleading where I would tumble, jump, and split to a high calorie burn.

As a 20-ish adult I tried step classes, kick boxing, running, Insanity, P90X – I think I tried it all… and then 3 years ago, I answered a Facebook ad of all things for the Elite Edge Free 6-week challenge.  (FREE if you lose 20 lbs in 6 weeks – which I did).  Three days a week are strength days, 3 days are HIIT cardio days.  INTENSE!  I loved it.  I still love it.  Once I finished the challenge, I was at odds what to do next.  I tried working out on my own, finding workouts on Pinterest – but it wasn’t the same as the classes at Elite.

Enter TFW or Training for Warriors.  The Elite Edge gym in Ankeny, Iowa has a program within it called Training for Warriors.  They market it as what to do next when you’ve reached your goal weight and now want to maintain or get stronger.  I was ready for the next challenge.  I’m a little bit competitive that way… actually I’m a lot competitive that way.

One of the sayings at TFW is Lift Heavy and Sprint.  We do both of those.  And I do both of those at 5am everyday (I’m a little sporadic in the summer, but have made most days at 5 am).  Starting next week, I’ll be joining the 4 am class because our schedule gets busier and I don’t want to have to rush in the mornings.

Yes you read that correctly – I work out every day at 5 am – soon to be 4 am.  Many people do… but here’s why it may be a bit shameful or selfish… because I go to bed early.  I do not apologize for my 8 pm bedtime or getting in my jammies at 7 pm (or 6:30 or 5:30 on Friday nights after football season).  I do not plan any activities in the evenings if I don’t have to because I prioritize going to bed early, so I can get up early, so I can lift heavy and sprint.  My social life in the evening is nil because my social life actually happens in the morning with my #fitfam at TFW.

Is it hard to get up that early?  Yes…I question my sanity every. single. day.  I fight my eyelids every. single. day.  Until 6 am – when I’m wide awake, feeling great, and ready to take on the day.  I have never been more confident or have I felt more “together” since I started this routine of lifting heavy and sprinting.  On days I don’t win the fight, I feel horrible the rest of the day, even if I do get the workout in later in the day.  It just never feels as good because it throws off everything else for the day.

And it’s not just that I’m getting up early.  I ABSOLUTELY LOVE the workouts.  We lift on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and do HIIT cardio on Tuesday and Thursday.  I get an additional HIIT cardio through bootcamp with Elite Edge on Saturdays.  We lift the main lifts:  bench press, back squat, overhead shoulder press, and deadlift.  We do between 3-4 blocks of compound lifts (think bicep curls, tricep work, lunges, hip thrusters, etc…).  It takes about 45 minutes to get through an entire workout… and then we occasionally have an ab finisher.

My current one rep max (1 RM) weights are:

bench press:  145 lbs
back squat:  190 lbs
overhead press:  85 lbs
deadlift:  225 lbs.

But here’s where I started:

bench press:  45 lbs
back squat:  65 lbs
overhead press:  45 lbs
deadlift:  95 lbs.

It’s been 2 years since I started working out with TFW.  I’ve gained a total of 395 lbs on my combined lifts.  I’ve lost a total 35 lbs over 3 years.  I get up at 4:15 am (soon to be 3:15 am).  And I go to bed by 8:30 pm most nights.  I am not ashamed.  I am proud.  I am not selfish – I am practicing radical self-care, unapologetically.  I am a better woman, wife, mom, and teacher for this self-care.

Whatever you do, do it shamelessly and selfishly.  Find your radical self-care.  Your family, friends, colleagues, and students will be so much better for it as will you.

Peace, Love, Math, and Lift Heavy and Sprint!



Creating a #MathFam

It’s Blaugust!  I’m participating for the first time this year, and I decided to start with my high expectation of creating a #MathFam this year starting on Day 1 – by using Frayer a Classmate from The EduProtocol Field Guide.  Without actually writing word for word from the book, I’ll try to summarize.

Using the standard frayer model – the primary purpose is for students to get to know their peers with secondary purposes to include learning the frayer model for learning vocabulary, practice providing multiple answers, and being challenged to provide deeper answers.

Students will come in and find their assigned seat (still working on how to do this on the first day as this will be a first for me but after reading Pam Wilson’s blog, I want to assign seats).  I start with Sara Vanderwerf‘s Name Tents and the first question will be:  “What are the qualities that make a good teacher?”

Then I will pair the students up and have them fill out the frayer model for each other. The 4 quadrants will have different headers.

Screen Shot 2018-08-01 at 11.21.34 AM

The name of the classmate goes in the middle.  In the top left, they will describe their classmate (what they look like).  Top right – they will list 4 things that they like.  Bottom left they will draw a picture of their dream pet based on their description.  Bottom right – they will list 4 things that they do not like.

That’s what the Field Guide says for the 4 parts of the frayer.  I’m not sure if I love the draw their dream pet, so that may change before the first day of school.

Once everyone is done – and I’ll set a time limit – we’ll share out quickly.  Each person will have to share the likes/dislikes.  After sharing out, groups will be re-formed based on commonalities and they’ll have a task to complete based on the thing they have in common.  I’m still working on the details and am definitely open for suggestions.



One of the main reasons this activity spoke to me is because I finally realized that my students don’t know each other.  I work in a large district of 12,000 students.  There are 5 feeder elementary schools to our middle schools.  It’s possible they’re sitting in a class with someone they’ve never met.  Maybe they’ve seen them in the halls or in other classes, but do not know their name.  I want my class to have a family feel.  I’m using my experiences in the gym to model this.  In the gym, we are very vulnerable as we’re lifting heavy weights, doing hard HIIT cardio and we need each other to get through the workout.  I call them my #FitFam.  Math is a very vulnerable place for many students.  Teaching is a very vulnerable place for me.  We are going to need each other to get through the year.  I want my classroom to feel like a #MathFam.  I am probably setting a rather high expectation as I always do in August when I’m feeling hopeful and excited for the new year.  I know they’re teenagers and they’ll act like they don’t care and that this is stupid.  But I *think* I’m old enough to know they do care and will remember this experience for a very long time.


~Peace, Love, and #MathFam,


Tales in Classroom Management, Structures and Routines, and Sanity…

Four years ago I made the change from teaching in a 9-12 high school to teaching in an 8-9 middle school.  I was very naive in thinking it wasn’t that big of a change. I had been teaching 9th and 10th graders, and I was moving to 8th and 9th graders.  How different could it possibly be?

Come to find out – a lot – a lot – a lot – a lot. I quickly discovered my ineptitude at classroom management.  If there had been a support group, I would have been there.

Me:  “Hi, my name is Megan, and I suck at classroom management.”   
The group:  “Hi, Megan”.

Also – I went from 50 minute class periods to 42 minute class periods.  Time became precious and I found myself constantly running out of it. I wasn’t using it very efficiently and for sure not wisely.

Thus began my relentless pursuit to get better at classroom management and engaging students.  I am still on this relentless pursuit; however, I have found 3 strategies that have been working in my classroom and I’ll be implementing a new one this year.

Every blog post will have this BIG DISCLAIMER – I am not an expert.  I do not claim to be an expert.  I am simply sharing a few ideas that have worked in my own classroom.

  1. Musical Cues – after I finish writing this blog – I will write another one about my Musical Cues.  Four years ago when I read Mr. Vaudrey’s post on Musical Cues, I wanted to try them. So I did and haven’t looked back.  I use 3 musical cues to run my classroom.
    • Do NOW – this is a song that changes every year.  The first year I used “Call Me Maybe”. The second year was “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by JT.  Last year I used “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne. I’m still looking for this year’s song. It starts when the bell rings and it plays for the first 2 minutes of class.  Students are to complete the Do NOW before the song ends.
    • 1/2 way into the class period song – this is Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” and there’s a 1 minute clip that plays “Oh, we’re halfway there, whoa livin’ on a prayer”.  This hasn’t changed. I play it every year for my 1/2 way song.
    • Final Countdown – with 2 minutes left of class, you guessed it, “It’s the Final Countdown”.  This also hasn’t changed. Students complete the daily check-in (listed below) during the final countdown.  

I use the Musical Timer Chrome Extension by Chris Rime to run these automatically.  What you say? AUTOMATICALLY – Repeat automatically – I do not even think about it. It is a little tedious to set up, and I will detail it more in my blog post dedicated to musical cues.  Once it’s set up, it’s golden. Like I love it love it love it. (there is a downside when my projector audio turns off during the middle of a class period)

I have been tempted to add more musical cues – however – these are the 3 time markers that I can count on every single day.  And I want the triggers to be automatic so I don’t have to remember, so I’ve stayed with 3.

2.  Do NOW – This is a strategy that has helped eliminate tardies and get my class going right from the beginning bell.  I use this in conjunction with a musical cue and it’s a spiraled skill for them to complete, usually on their desks (as they’re whiteboards).  Sometimes it’s a “go get this to get ready for class”. Sometimes it’s a “open your Chromebook, go to our Google Classroom and fill out this form”.  But more often than not, it’s a problem to be completed that I can walk around and see on their desks: a very informal formative assessment. I am relentless about teaching this strategy from day one.  Come in, get your necessary materials, and do the Do NOW, NOW!

3.  Daily Check-In (Metacognition)- during the Final Countdown, I have students fill out a 2 question Google Form called the Daily Check-In.  The 2 questions include:

  • Rate your comfort level on today’s material:  1 to 3 (1 – please help, I’m lost, 2 – I can do this independently, 3 – I know this so well I could teach someone else)
  • Comments/Questions/Concerns/Compliments

I started this 3 years ago and have not always had the students do it everyday.  This year I’m going to have them do it Every. Single. Day. I give a quick look every day and respond as necessary.  It also gives them a chance to process Every. Single. Day. Last year I learned this is an actual thing called metacognition. Who knew?  I was actually doing something before even knowing I was doing something good. I just knew I wanted students to tell me on a daily basis how they were feeling.

Over the past couple of years I have of course been tempted to stop these routines and try something new.  However, they work. They still work. And so when I think those thoughts of trying something new, I remember and shout out loud:  “THEY STILL WORK!” Until they stop working, I’m gonna keep these 3.

This year I’m going to try a new strategy.  One area that I’ve really struggled with over the years is pulling my class together and getting everyone’s attention.  I try to use whole group instruction sparingly, but there are times when I need to pull the class together. Soooooo – I bought a wireless doorbell. Whenever I want to get the entire class together, I will ring the doorbell which will indicate they have 1 minute to get quiet.  I will ring it a 2nd time when I’m ready. I plan to teach and model this strategy over and over again in the first few days of school.  

In summary – I’ve reflected on why these strategies work.  First of all, I identified areas of need for my classroom where I feel the most insane and out of control. Here were my areas of greatest need:

  1. Time management.
  2. Behavior management to get the class going.
  3. Making sure to keep a pulse of the students’ feelings around the content.

Time management was a huge need.  I always lose track of time, especially when my class periods were significantly shortened.  Musical cues helped with that need. Behavior management at the beginning of class was a huge need.  Students were messing around while I was in the hallway greeting students. Class took forever to calm down and get going by the time I got in the classroom.  Do NOWs give students an immediate purpose when they walk in the classroom. And by me greeting them at the door, I give a constant reminder to get started right NOW.  Lastly, I was having issues with students hiding until test day. The daily check-in became a non-threatening way for students to communicate with me without actually having to talk to me.  They’re very honest and give me a glimpse of what’s going on in their head. (I’ve also implemented Formative Assessments with Responses as a fix to students hiding until test day – that’s another post).

This year I am back to a high school setting (10-12).  Do these routines seem too middle school’ish? That’s definitely a concern I have, but we will see.  Maybe this will be the year they don’t work and I will have to find something else, but I’m going to give them a go.  

Now I just have to find my opening song… shoot me ideas and keep in mind, I like to DANCE!

Peace, Love, Math, and reclaiming my SANITY!


Workshop Model in a Secondary Classroom – my version

As an instructional coach this past year, I had the privilege of visiting other buildings in our district, particularly elementary classrooms. Visiting these classrooms was one of the best thing all year about being an instructional coach.  Elementary teachers are rockstars when it comes to classroom management, routines and structures to keep students engaged, and meeting the needs of all their students.  I have learned so much from elementary teachers.

This past year our building (an 8-9 middle school) focused its learning in MTSS around student engagement.  Our district uses innovation configuration maps to center our professional development.  The maps move from right to left with Learning on the far right and Established on the left to indicate progression toward mastering the art of teaching (by the way – something we’ll never do).  Here is a snapshot of part of the map we used this year:

Screen Shot 2018-07-23 at 6.42.32 PM

Something to keep in mind – these maps were written for K-12 teachers and obviously a kindergarten teacher and a 12th grade teacher have much different needs in their classrooms; however, this is a guideline for maximizing student engagement (And because I’m a huge Pirates of the Caribbean fan … From Pirates of the Caribbean:  The Curse of the Black Pearl – Barbossa: First, your return to shore was not part of our negotiations nor our agreement so I must do nothing. And secondly, you must be a pirate for the pirate’s code to apply and you’re not. And thirdly, the code is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules. )

If you noticed, an Established teacher will use student-centered learning opportunities daily, small group instruction daily, and whole group instruction sparingly.  This is a rather tall order – but I set out to try it and here’s why.

We adopted a new resource 3 years ago.  We also accelerated all 8th graders to Algebra 1 during the year.  The resource we adopted was CPM which is a whole new way of teaching math.  CPM and I didn’t hit it off very well.  It has a “do it our way” mentality and I’m a rebel and don’t always want to do it the way someone tells me to do it.  However, I love the problems in CPM.  They’re great for getting students to talk and explore and discover the wonderful math things.  The structure – however – doesn’t always work for my students, and I wondered how I might implement CPM and the workshop model together.  The following is what I came up with.

BIG DISCLAIMER – I am not claiming to be an expert on this topic.  I do not claim that this is the best way, only way, etc.  What worked for me, may not work for you.  I’m not claiming that everyone should do it this way.  This was an experiment that ended up working from time to time.

Here’s a picture of how I set up my classroom for this:

Workshop Model - Classroom Setup (1)

There are 3 main station areas –

  1.  Independent practice – desks are set up in 2’s in rows.
  2. Group work – desks are arranged in 4’s
  3. Teacher table work.

When I run a workshop, here are the components:

  1. Mini-lesson whole group
  2. Small group instruction with the teacher
  3. Student-centered learning opportunities (independent practice and group work)
  4. Metacognitive opportunities for students
  5. Formative assessment
  6. FA response

Here is a lesson I ran for students to learn properties of quadrilaterals.  This took about 4 days to complete. Our school has 42 minute class periods and I always have a Do Now that takes the first 5 minutes and have a Final Countdown Google Form for metacognition for the last 2 minutes of class, leaving 35 minutes.  I use Musical Cues for the Do NOW, the halfway mark of class, and the Final Countdown.  This year the musical cues were Ozzy Osbourne’s Crazy Train for the Do NOW, Livin’ on a Prayer is always my halfway song (it’s a 1-minute clip), and the Final Countdown is the final countdown song for 2 minutes.

The mini-lesson was a reminder of slope – so we watched Slope Dude and remembered how to find slope on a coordinate plane.  Students had to use coordinate geometry to discover properties of quadrilaterals using slope and length (distance formula), so we needed to review those topics from Algebra 1.

Small group instruction with me was a mini-lesson on distance formula – we don’t actually use the formula – we just use pythagorean theorem to find the length of the hypotenuse of a right triangle on the coordinate plane.  I had a guided investigation for them to do this.  It was review from their Algebra 1 class (at least it should have been review).  I gave specific, targeted instruction for those students who needed the extra scaffold.  For others, they worked through it quickly, remembering how to find the length of a segment on the coordinate plane.  We also remembered how to find the slope of a line.  When they got done with this, they moved on to the following investigations.

The student-centered learning opportunities included Geogebra investigations through GoFormative to find properties of quadrilaterals and independent practice once they had discovered all the properties of the quadrilaterals.  They worked in pairs on the Geogebra investigations and mostly on the independent practice as well.

The Geogebra investigations were applets embedded in GoFormative.  They were guided by questions that led them to discovering all the properties of a given quadrilateral which they then filled out on a Quadrilateral Toolkit.  No memorizing of properties at all.  Cause why would we do that to anyone?

The independent practice was then a connection between the algebra on a coordinate plane and the properties of quads.

All of what was just described is in the Hyperdoc found on slide 5 of the Google Slides for the week.  I don’t think you’ll be able to look at the GoFormatives but if you go to Geogebra and search for quadrilateral properties – there are a ton of applets and investigations.

For metacognition, each day the students placed their name next to the activity that I had posted on poster paper on the wall.  They also filled out our daily Google Form that had them rate their level of comfort and provide a space for them to give me details about where they’re at in their learning.  If students weren’t on pace to complete all the tasks by day 4, they worked with me to get on track.

Once I got all the students through the slope and distance algebra skills, I was free to work with students on the investigations.  This happened near the end of day 2.  The investigations didn’t require students to know the algebra skills.  They were merely playing with Geogebra applets and answering questions.  The independent practice did require finding slope and length so in order to do those, they had to get through my instruction.

On the fifth day, the students took a formative assessment to gauge their progress on quadrilateral properties.  When we came back that Monday, I had a response ready based on their formative data.  The response was tiered and students were homogeneously grouped based on their need.  Throughout the workshop the four days prior, students had been heterogeneously grouped randomly using Google Sheets to randomize the roster.

This was a rather long workshop because we investigated so many quadrilaterals.  I’ve run shorter ones – but the shortest is still a 2-day workshop.  One of these days I may get as good as the elementary teachers and run it in one day.  That’s my goal.

Also – I do NOT do this all the time.  For sure, I run a workshop once a unit.  And we (as a Geometry PLC) always have a response to formative assessments.

Again – this is just what has been working for me to meet the needs of students.  It’s most definitely not perfect, but I have seen way more engagement from students by using it.

Peace, Love, Math and the Workshop Model –


My #1TMCThing from #TMC18

I attended Twitter Math Camp this summer after wanting to go since 2012.  I’ve been a follower and small participant of the #MTBoS (Math Twitter Blog-o-Sphere or “Mitt Boss”) since I got on Twitter as an educator in 2011.  Before this year, I was a member of #TMCJealousyCamp and #NotAtTMC religiously.  I followed the tweets, the wiki, and absorbed as much as I possibly could without actually being there.  To say I have been in awe of these edu-math-celebrities would be an understatement.

This year – I was actually there – in person – face to face with my edu-math-heroes.  I started the first day looking in – spotting said heroes, so intimidated that I was too scared to approach them and instead tweeted at them.  And then they approached me.  It was kinda funny actually.  Twitter is a great place to be an introvert and yet people think I am an extrovert.  I can talk to people without actually having to face them.  It’s perfect for me.

It’s insanely challenging to pick #1TMCThing to focus on – but here it is – “You are enough”.  Julie Reulbach gave the keynote on day 2.   She had so much encouragement for teachers and in fact MADE us tweet out scripted tweets that started with:

“I am a great teacher because… ”

“I am a #teacherleader because…”

Here are mine:

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Notice anything about those?  Well Julie then proceeded tell us all this and give us the sticker to remind us:

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When I compared my tweets to this message that “You are enough” – I noticed that I am stuck in the belief that I am not enough.  That I require help from the outside to do well.  The whole “it takes a village” thinking – which I still believe that it takes a village to walk through life.  I cannot imagine going at anything alone.  I do believe we are meant to be in community with one another… but that’s different than this.  “I can be enough and need community” is a new concept for me.   My thought process in the past has been “I am not enough BECAUSE I need community.”

Here are two imposter-type issues that I’ve been processing:

— I have to do it Julie Reulbach’s way because she is amazing and if I don’t do it her way, I am not enough of a great math teacher.  And insert any name there.  (I love Julie a lot – and I think she’ll understand my point.)

— I have to do it the textbook way because everyone loves that resource and says it’s the best and if I don’t love it then I’m not enough of a great math teacher.

The first one is for sure the biggest obstacle to overcome for me as I’ve been a MTBoS lurker for so long and am so in awe of the amazing things these teachers do in their classrooms.

So – my #1TMCThing is to BE ME and know that I am enough.  And to make sure that I am encouraging everyone around me that way as well.  You don’t have to do it MY WAY or the textbook way or Julie’s way.  You are enough.  Do it YOUR WAY.  (I’m now talking to myself with this – it’s my own personal pep talk).

Now what?  How is anyone going to hold me accountable to such a vague thing?  How does one measure confidence?  I don’t know – but I plan to have constant reminders around me.  For example, at Staples this morning as I was browsing in a non-notebook section, this notebook was on a shelf:


Of course I bought it.  It might not get used and just be a placeholder on my desk.  Or I use it but keep the cover, laminate it or frame it.  Not sure – but I know I need the reminder to help hold me accountable.

And I’m not sure this is a teacher-specific message.  As a teacher, it is VERY easy to lose sight of this in the midst of the 4 million things we are asked to do.  It’s VERY easy to get caught up in thinking that I can’t do it all, I can’t do it all well, I’m not enough for these students.

But I can imagine this being a challenge for anyone.  I know I have felt this as a mother and for sure as a wife…and more recently as a woman in this culture.  “You are enough” is a message that EVERYONE needs to know.

Elissa Miller (@misscalcul8) shared her Two Nice Things and had us share two nice things about ourselves and that was the hardest thing for all of us to do.  Say 2 nice things about ourselves.  Clearly we have a “you are not enough” complex because if we all knew we were enough, it would have been a lot easier to say 2 nice things about ourselves.

So there it is – “You are enough” – my #1TMCThing.

Thank you to the whole #MTBoS and #TMC and #iteachmath community.  In the words of Matt Baker (@stoodle), “I am the teacher I am today because of the #MTBoS” – or even better “I am A teacher today because of the #MTBoS” – both are true!

Peace, Love, Math –


(Meegan High-Knee)


Student-Created How-To Videos

Today is a great day – not only do we get a much needed break to celebrate Thanksgiving.  But my Pre-Algebra students finished up their how-to videos for solving equations.

A little bit of background on Pre-Algebra students… they are typically the students who have been on a modified math curriculum for special ed or who have been identified as needing more math support.  These are higher need students.

But that doesn’t mean their expectations are any different from anyone else’s in Pre-Algebra.  The bar is still set quite high, and they’re meeting it and blowing me away with their successes.

Recently, I was challenged by a tech integrationist I follow on Twitter.  His message was “what are secondary teachers doing to have students create and publish work?”  We do a lot of this at the elementary level and in literacy and social studies.  But to be honest, in math – I haven’t had my students create or publish anything.  That is certainly changing.

My Pre-Algebra students spent the week creating a how-to video on how to solve an equation.  I gave them the equation (at their own level), they practiced the problem, created a script, and let me video them solving their problem.  I plan to send these videos to their parents and somehow – I haven’t decided yet – we’ll start publishing them as digital portfolios.  I see this as a tool to use the rest of the year.  What a great way for students to demonstrate their understanding.  I am so excited!

If you want to see these amazing videos, click the link!

Student how-to videos

Peace, Love, Math, and my students are creators and publishers!