Thursday, May 29, 2014

Plans for June

I have a few students coming in June to make up some work from second semester.  I hope this works out well, but I am nervous.  I need to have a plan, however, so that this time is productive for them.  Here is a basic outline:

Week 1 (June 2, 4, 5):  Solving Linear Equations

Week 2 (June 9, 11, 12):  Solving Systems of Equations

Week 3 (June 16, 18, 19):  Exponents and Radicals

Week 4 (June 23, 25, 26):  Polynomials

June 30:  FINISH

These are all things that we did second semester, but these students who are coming in June were not successful on.  Hopefully I will be able to help them be more successful this time around (and hopefully they will be more motivated to be successful).  Sometimes I wonder what I got myself into...



Tuesday, May 27, 2014

[Unit Overview] Statistics in Brief

I only had a short amount of time left to study Statistics in Algebra 1, but I wanted to do what I could.  Here is what we focused on.

I can describe the correlation of bivariate data.

This is probably not where I should have started, but since I had seen this post by Mrs. Hester (which led by to this post by Sarah) it was what was on my mind at the end of a long week.  So it is what I ended up starting with.

I always break down what "bivariate data" means for students.  Then I gave them this document to cut up and sort based on the definitions.  Then we discussed and glued it in.

Next day I gave students these scenarios to label with the correlation they would expect to see.  I tried to frame it for them like this:  "If _________ increases, I would expect __________ to increase/decrease"  We always start by thinking of one as increasing, because that is how the definitions start.  We sorted these and glued them in after discussing.

I can graph bivariate data.

This should have been first...not sure why I didn't think of it at the time, but it is what it is...

Big starting point here is to define a scatter plot.

Then we did this investigation on height vs. armspan.  I've done it twice now, and I like it, but I would like other ideas for bivariate data I can collect immediately from students.  Anyone have good ideas?

I then gave handouts for using the calculator to create the graph.  I found one for TI-84 here and one for TI-nspire here.

I can find the line of best fit for bivariate data.

We just used the calculator to calculate linear regression.  I showed them how and then asked them to write down steps for themselves in their notes.

To sum up the unit I had students complete a project.  Basically they had to decide what to collect data on, collect the data, create a scatter plot, and find the line of best fit.  Here is my file if you would like it.

That is a brief overview of my brief statistics unit.  Hopefully I will expand (a lot) on it next year.



Thursday, May 22, 2014

Last Day of School

Today was the last day of school.  It is sad to think that one part of my teaching experience is over.  I will never be in that same setting again with those kids and it makes me really sad. Now begins the reflection time.  I need to find the appropriate amount of time to wait before reflecting...

Some things I know I need to reflect on include:

  • Interactive Notebooks
  • Grading
  • Homework
  • Motivating Students
  • Building Relationships with Students
  • Curriculum Structure
  • Classroom Organization
  • Integrating various types of Problem Solving
  • Classroom Management
Hope to start soon!



Sunday, May 18, 2014


Happy Graduation to the Class of 2014!

I was very proud of our speech-givers today.  Both did an excellent job.

The first was based off of Shel Silverstein's "Whatif" poem.  She shared how although they have outgrown some of those "what-ifs" there are new ones in their place.  And just as they all made in through the first set of "what-ifs" they can make it through the ones they feel now.

The second speech was about preparing yourself to succeed by surrounding yourself by people who will help you succeed.  He pointed to people who had helped them develop this outlook such as teachers, coaches, and parents.

Congratulations to all SHS Grads!



Thursday, May 15, 2014

Student Project: Frog Project

I've been working with a student all year in conjunction with Upward Bound Math and Science out of Northwest Missouri State University.  Students who have completed the summer program are encouraged to complete a project of their choosing during the school year.  Then they are encouraged to share it with a wide audience.

I worked with a 10th grader, Shania Mather.  I would like to share her summary of her project with you.  She worked on this all outside of school hours!  I was most impressed with her ability to choose a strategy to represent the process and to persevere in finding a solution.  Good job, Shania.  I'm glad to have had the opportunity to work with you this year.

The Frog Project

The Problem

My problem consisted of having seven lily pads and six frogs. On each side, there were three frogs of the same color. You had to get the same colored frogs from one side to the other, only going from one lily pad at a time, and you may cross a frog of the different color.

Steps taken

We had to find a way to model the problem so we could see how to solve it. We made papers that had seven circles in each row that were representing the lily pads. Instead of using colored frogs, I used triangles on one side and squares on the other side. The squares and triangles represented the frogs two different types of frogs. Each row of lily pads represents a new step that I used.

After I was was done with a paper and used all the lily pads, I looked back at the previous steps that I used to see what I could do different to solve the problem. I would always look back on my steps and see what I could do to get closer to solving the problem. Each time that I tried I would get a little bit closer.

The Solution

I was working on the last paper before the final solution I came up with and realized that I was close to solving it. I looked back on all the previous steps before and saw something that caught my eye. I felt like if I changed a few of my steps I would solve it or at least get closer. As you can see, I added more lily pads in the end because I was getting close to solving the problem and felt like I just needed more lily pads.

Thanks for reading and sharing in the success of my student!


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Body Image

I blame Anne and her post here for this post.  A previous post of hers about being a role model for her students in regards to body image make me think.  I agree that as a young, female teacher that is a good role to play.  I thought about the the ways I am a role model for my students and called it good.  I liked the challenge.  And I tried the challenge, but when it got hard I decided to stop.  I didn't show that I valued it.

Today I decided I need to post.  I got to thinking about my body image.  I'm pretty much in the same place as Anne.  I don't have body image issues.  But I don't always love my body.  As I was thinking through it, I started to wonder about the "love your body" mantra that is supposed to help girls feel beautiful no matter what our bodies look like.  And I started to wonder if it helps promote a positive body image, or if rather it creates more negative body image for girls who don't love their bodies.

Isn't accepting what is better than trying to sugar-coat?  Is stating the truth better than saying everything is perfect no matter what?  I find the most rewarding conversations about weight to be ones that are based in honesty and fact rather than acting like things are great when they are not.

I had one of those conversations at lunch today.  I walked away feeling supported and connected to those who were involved.

What do you think?  Do you think promoting "love your body" is valuable for building body image?  What makes you feel the most positive about your body?  Or at least the most OK about your body?



Things That Have Suffered Since I Started #MTBoS30

Just a quick list of things that I haven't given as much time to since starting #MTBoS30.  Consider these things I will enjoy even more once I complete the challenge.
  • Sleep
  • Grading
  • Sleep
  • Picking up Dirty Laundry
  • Sleep
  • Long Blog Posts that Have Value
  • Sleep
  • Lesson Planning
  • Sleep
  • Family Time
  • Sleep
I'm sure most of this has more to do with the end of the year stress, but that and the challenge really compacts it.



Monday, May 12, 2014


Most days before school starts there are 10+ students in my room doing a variety of things.  Hanging out, texting, working on Algebra, working on other homework, etc.  My room is the only room they can stop by in between the door and the cafeteria/gym where they are supposed to go in the mornings.  I LOVE this part of my classroom.  I love that they feel comfortable hanging out in my room when they might not feel comfortable in the cafeteria or gym.

A while ago I had stepped out to use the restroom during this time.  A few minutes after returning I noticed that someone had left a kiwi on my desk.  I knew instantly which student it was from.  He likes to do weird random things like that.  I thought it was funny and so did he.

I got this brilliant idea this evening to encourage him through the end of the year by bringing him a kiwi each day (we only have 8 days left).  I'm excited to see how it plays out tomorrow :)



Sunday, May 11, 2014

#alg1chat Master Topic List

I wanted to share tonight the Master Topic List we began creating for #alg1chat.  If there is something you are required to teach in your Algebra 1 class that you feel is not included on this document, please add it!  It's very disorganized right now, but we'll get it organized at some point :)

Master Topic List



Friday, May 9, 2014

Reflections on RtI

We spent a major part of our year studying RtI at my school, and we were asked to do a reflection.  I am sharing part of my reflection for my post today.

Identify next steps needed in your district or school to prepare for use of this approach.
                There are two things I would like to see done to help facilitate effective RtI at the high school.  One of them is a real effort to identify root causes.  As was emphasized in the webinars, when students are not being successful it is important to identify the root causes so that we can try to address those rather than the side effects of the root causes.  This can be a very challenging task, and likely we will not succeed every time.
                Currently I feel as though we often address behavior issues with academic interventions.  These attempts to intervene do not get at the root cause and therefore do not actually help solve the problem.  So even though it will be challenging to identify the root causes, and even more challenging to provide interventions, it gives more hope of success than what we currently have in place.
                The other thing I would like to see happen in order to facilitate effective RtI at the high school is implementing an enrichment/intervention period during our day.  I can see many ways of making this work, but all of them would be a challenge to set up and implement.  All staff would need to be involved to make it successful and all would need to be committed to making it valuable for students.  The enrichment opportunities would have to be things that students would be interested and willing to dig in to that are more than and outside of what they get in the classroom.  The intervention classes would have to be additional instruction for the students, not study hall.

                I believe implementation of these two things could have a drastic effect on the success of many students at our school.  They would both take a lot of work, but they would show that our focus is on the students and creating a system that supports them as learners.

What changes would you make if you could to help implement appropriate response to intervention?



Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Things that Annoyed Me Today

In brief:

A five minute meeting that started five minutes late. It was in another building, so overall not worth the time. Email would have been enough.

Assignments that are not specific. When people expect me to interpret non-specific instructions when I'm not the one in charge.

Students wanting me to do the work for them.

Finding out our dental insurance is changing the afternoon before the representative is in the buildings. I have negative free time tomorrow to meet with the rep.

When people assume they understand something they don't. When people assume I don't know something I do.

The stress if this time of year.

This list got longer than I anticipated. At first I only had two, but not sure I even included those two...



Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Bulletin Board Calendar

I had seen many various of this on pinterest and blogs, and I finally figured out something that works well enough for me.  Well enough for a semester at least!  I wanted to make sure that handouts were easily accessible and that students could see what they might have missed other than a handout.

So here is my bulletin board about a week ago:

I have a folder for each day of the week and I taped a 1/2 page of transparency to the front.  This way I can write a brief description of what happened in class AND include any handouts all in one go.

Up close for a day with a handout:

Up close for a day without a handout (they can tell there is still something they need to make-up):

Students who are chronically absent like this because they know how to take care of their work.  Students who are rarely absent are just figuring the system out now.  But I don't mind because it is easy to manage.  On Friday when students who were absent Thursday didn't have the paper they needed for their notes I could easily say "It's in the Thursday folder." and they can figure the rest out themselves.  It doesn't take up my time for them to get what they need.

I plan to modify slightly for next year, but I haven't finalized what I want.  The transparency won't last all year and for small pieces of paper (as often happens with interactive notebooks) the folders are no good.  I was thinking about getting the folders laminated and seeing if that helped any.  I can use dry erase on laminated stuff just as well as a transparency.

How do you manage work for absent students?  What do you value about your system?



Sunday, May 4, 2014

A Perfect Afternoon

The sun is shining.
The lawn has been mowed.
The trees are flowering and producing leaves.
There is a breeze that means I need long sleeves in the shade.
My boys play baseball in the backyard, announcing each play as though it is a top 10 for Sports Center.
These are the moments that I cherish.  The moments I think of when I'm feeling down.  The moments that remind me that what I'm doing is worthwhile.



Saturday, May 3, 2014

Foundational Standards

At our last Tiered Algebra day, we spent an entire morning choosing foundational standards for Algebra 1 (specifically looking through the Appendix A standards that were identified for Algebra 1).  We wanted to be make sure to state that we are not choosing Power Standards.  Common Core specifically clarifies that all standards are equally important.  In our core instruction, we need to be teaching all standards.  
However, we felt it might be helpful to identify some standards that were critical to the learning of other standards.  We wanted our foundational standards to be ones that:
  • would help students learn other Algebra standards
  • would be necessary for life
  • might help bridge between 8th grade math and Algebra
An example is that if students have trouble solving linear equations, it is likely that they would have trouble solving systems of equations, quadratic equations, etc.  In that way, solving linear equations is a foundational standard.

After much discussion we came up with the following foundational standards/groups of standards:


A.CED.1:  Create equations and inequalities in one variable and use them to solve problems.
A.REI.1:  Explain each step in solving a simple equation as following from the equality of numbers asserted at the previous step, starting from the assumption that the original equation has a solution.  Construct a viable argument to justify a solution method.
A.CED.4:  Rearrange formulas to highlight quantities of interest, using the same reasoning as in solving equations.

: Calculate and interpret the average rate of change of a function (presented symbolically or as a table) over a specified interval. Estimate the rate of change from a graph.
S.ID.7: Interpret the slope (rate of change) and the intercept (constant term) of a linear model in the context of the data.

A.APR.1: Understand that polynomials for a system analogous to the integers, namely, they are closed under the operations of addition, subtraction, and multiplication; add, subtract, and multiply polynomials.

: Understand that a function from one set (called the domain) to another set (called the range) assigns to each element of the domain exactly one element of the range. If f is a function and x is an element of its domain, then f(x) denotes the output of fcorresponding to the input x. The graph of f is the graph of the equation y = f(x).
A.REI.10:  Understand that the graph of an equation in two variables is the set of all its solutions plotted in the coordinate plane, often forming a curve (which could be a line).

A.SSE.1:  Interpret expressions that represent a quantity in terms of its context.  Interpret parts of an expression, such as terms, factors, and coefficients.  Interpret complicated expressions by viewing one or more of their parts as a single entity.

N.RN.2:  Rewrite expressions involving radicals and rational exponents using the properties of exponents.

N.Q.1:  Use units as a way to understand problems and to guide the solution of multi-step problems; choose and interpret units consistently in formulas; choose and interpret the scale and the origin in graphs and data displays.

It was a morning of long debates, so I would easily say that almost all of us would argue to change something about what we came up with...overall what to you think?  Is there something you would add or remove?



Friday, May 2, 2014

Life Stages and Values

I've been feeling really isolated lately because of a conflict between my age, my values and beliefs, my job, my family structure, and my location compared to others that I would consider my friends.

I am young, only a few years out of college, and made some GREAT friends in college that really gave me a safe community to grow in. I married one of those people right out of college. We live in small town Iowa. Our closest college friends are 2 hours away, and that rarely happens because of ever-busy schedules and the lives we are all trying to create where we live. The isolation post-college hit us hard. 

We since moved and because of how much of a challenge we felt from the isolation, we specifically sought out a church in our new community that we felt could best provide fellowship for us.  I remember feeling isolated still at the beginning because all of the young couples had kids and we didn't. We were discussing expanding our family and did decide that the time was right, but our expanding is happening in a very non-traditional way. It often seems to isolate us even more.

The people who we might be friends with because of the look of our family do not have similar values and beliefs or are significantly older than my husband and I. And older people already have established friend groups that are not easily joined. (Another disadvantage with these couples is that often their children are my students...)

The people who we might be friends with because of our age and values and beliefs are not able to meet our family needs very well. I have seen evidence that some are trying to be supportive, but it's not the same as experiencing it and understanding for yourself. (That is something I might not have really understood until I crossed into this land myself.) I want them to be willing to try what we are doing. I want to be an example that demonstrates that they can do this too, but it is a difficult thing to do when we often feel so alone.

Now I don't want you to think I am friendless. I have plenty of friends, but what I lack is a cohesive group of friends that can relate to multiple aspects of each others' lives. And who have experienced enough of each others' lives to truly know how to be blessings to each other. I have been grieving for this lately.



Thursday, May 1, 2014


Noticed this in my classroom the other day:

Yes, those are socks.
It seemed random yet also funny.  Just thought I'd share.