[DITL] The Last Day Before Thankgiving

6:00 I wake up to my watch alarm and get ready for school. I turn my phone alarm off before it goes off and notice Glenn Waddell’s reminder email to blog a DITL today. I brush my teeth before eating breakfast because I’m not quite awake. I’m surprised I don’t do that more often.

While showering I debate the ethics and usefulness of doing a warm-up on the Pythagorean Theorem very similar to one of the county-mandated Benchmark tests. I decide to do the warm-up for Merit but not for Honors.

7:05 When I get to school, a fellow teacher comes in to get the Chromebook cart back. I had taken it out of her room since I signed up for it today, but I didn’t notice that she had it signed out for ELT (homeroom). I apologize and later she even brought the cart back to me.

Last night I had the idea to post the agenda to Google Classroom each day. It took 15 seconds and has the HW on there as well as our “essential question” and what we did for the day. I think I’ll do that more often as a resource for absent students.

Displaying IMG_20161122_071801808.jpg

I make copies for the day: test correction forms for ELT, quizzes for Algebra I, and Mathcounts materials for after school.

7:52 Students start coming in for ELT–the 10 minutes when they hear the announcements and see which classes they’re going to (sometimes students are pulled for tutoring). I always have to quiet down one pocket of boys. I patiently “shush” the same student over and over during the morning announcements.

8:05 My 7th period comes in (it’s their turn in the ELT rotation) and we start working on test corrections. They took the test over a week ago, but this was the first time I was able to work with them during ELT, and it took a long time to grade online, so I decided to wait until now. I would write the work up around the room and they copied down the right answer onto their test corrections. I wonder how much they’re getting out of it just copying down what I write, but when I ask them to figure it out on their own, I end up helping them all out and saying the same thing 18 times. On the sheet they have to answer summary questions such as “how do you find the slope from an equation”, so hopefully that helps.

8:38 I have 1st and 2nd period planning. I talk with the other 8th grade teacher about what we’re doing next week and finish what I didn’t get printed earlier. I make keys for Algebra I so they can grade themselves after they take the quiz.

10:17 My 3rd period students start trickling in and I try to direct their attention to the problem on the board that is so similar to the benchmark question that it makes me queasy thinking about it. I’m optimistic but I fear that at least 1/3 of the students in the room won’t understand it even though I go right over it and another third will forget how to do it 15 minutes later when they see in on the test.

The students start out by finishing their test they started yesterday on paper. When they finish the paper, they’re to get a Chromebook and put their benchmark answers into the computer test (setup on Google Classroom). One of the problems is tricky to type in so I ask every student to show me #7. Yes, it’s faster to do that than for me to go back afterwards and change every student’s answer.

Once they finish with the test, they’re to check their grades online and look for missing assignments/missing quiz corrections.

After they do all of that, they’re allowed to play Prodigy.

Algebra is the only class that’s not taking a benchmark rigth now. I try a different warm-up today: Warm-up by checking your HW answers with the other students at your table. It works okay. We quickly go over the HW. Then I show them “my favorite mistakes” from the tickets out, the day before, encouraging them not to make the same mistakes on the quiz.

After the Algebra students take their quiz, they check their work and get a TenMarks username and password to start some practice problems on TenMarks.

12:10 At lunch I offer to tutor a student who was really struggling with 2-step equations. I like to avoid the (often) negative atmosphere of the teacher’s lounge, so this is a double bonus for me.

After lunch, we repeat with my last two classes.

3:00 Mathcounts has a small showing today (only 5 of the 12 members) because the morning announcements sounded like “afternoon activities are cancelled” when it really said “afternoon activity buses are cancelled”. It’s fun doing the math with them and seeing the expressions on their faces. This time one student had 2 riddles for his fellow students, so I printed them off and let them go at it the last 10 minutes.

4:15 I start to tackle this “end of the day to-do list”. It only takes about an hour. I use Google Keep for this, so I can “uncheck all boxes” when I’m done to reuse the list the next day.

  • Take attendance
  • Send Remind.com message
  • Write the next day’s Daily Agenda on the Wall
  • Get Tickets Out
  • Make One Positive Phone Call (remember that parents CARE about their kids and you enjoy this!)
  • Enter Tutoring List
  • Steps? (this is for behavior)
  • Email *****’s parents (student)
  • Email $$$$$’s parents (student)
  • Email %%%%’s parents (student)

I have three trouble students who I’ve found that a daily email home is the best strategy to keep them focused as much as possible. Also those three parents really appreciate the emails.

5:15ish I start to tackle my “end of week” checklist, again on Google Keep.

  • Print New Attendance Sheets
  • Get All the Turned in Work
  • Write next week’s Birthdays on the wall
  • Plug in HW grades for the week
  • Put Warm-ups on Google Classroom
  • Mentor Log?
  • Clean Up
  • Put times next to anything on the to-do list for the weekend

Most of these are faster because it was a 2-day week.

I get to go home around 5:30pm. There’s just a tiny bit of light from the sun which set a while ago when I step outside. I notice that my car is the only one in the lot and briefly wonder if I’m doing something wrong. I’m working full-time after school to get all those things above that NEED to be done: so why am I last to leave? I’m a fairly fast worker.

I play with Benji (2 and a half years old yesterday) and Daniel (4 months) in the evening and type up this blog post at 11pm, when I should be sleeping. We’re driving to Roanoke, VA tomorrow to visit family for Thanksgiving and I need the sleep for the drive. At least I have 5 days off before the next day of school.

Leave a comment

Filed under Teaching

[DITL] A PD Day in Frederick Co.

6:00 am

I wake up to my watch alarm because I was too tired the night before to set it for an hour later. I usually try to get to school by 7 am, but since it is a PD day, I can get to the “Symposium” by 8. All of the teachers across the county go to one of six sites. I am sure that this was explained to me earlier in the year, when I was not worried about this because it was months away.

6:45 am

I finally get up and enjoy the extra rest. The previous two nights I was working up until midnight, which is much later than I am used to. Last night, knowing I did not have to do anything to get ready for today, I think I went to sleep around 9:30 pm.

After a short breakfast, I hop in the car and drive to a local high school–one of the six locations around the county that teachers will be going. This location is focused on secondary teaching and assessment. We signed up for two classes online (weeks before) for the morning. The afternoon will be spent working in my classroom.

8:30 am

I arrive at my first class and am pleasantly surprised that it is a teacher from my own school leading the class! The class is on MobyMax and the teacher does a great job of introducing us to the program, hitting the highlights of what she enjoys most of it, and then letting us mess with it the rest of the time while answering questions. I really want to use it now, and think this will be much more appropriate for many of my students who struggle with the difficult level of reading that TenMarks requires to answer their questions.

10:20 am

A keynote lecture is sandwiched between the two morning classes. I really enjoyed Michael Gorman. He talked about “initiative fatigue”, after listing several dozen initiatives that had been started over the past few decades. Things like PBL, 21st century skills, DOK, etc. He boiled “good teaching” down to the 7 areas that he considered most important, and tossed a few good tools or ways to do each of the seven main points. He asked us to try to take at least one thing away, and I grabbed a few: trying word clouds, commonsense.org, and QFT (see http://rightquestion.org/education/).

11:15 am

My second class was on Peardeck.  I had used it half a dozen times in class, so I was hoping to “go deeper”, but the class was an introductory class. It was a good reminder that I can use it again because it is great for making sure students understand what is going on!


I drive home since my house is sort of on the way to school, where I get to work in the afternoon. I get to eat with my wife and two sons (well, Daniel is only 2 months old, so he just hangs out while we eat).

1:00 pm

I get to school and have grand plans of getting all my grades and lesson plans done so I can enjoy the weekend! I turn in my emergency sub plans, which is about a month late, and talk to my co-teacher about some grading stuff. I get to grade two classes, but have a good talk with the 8th grade counselor about some students. Somewhere in there I talk to our librarian and the principal comes around and hands out muffins that she baked. I mess with MobyMax a little to see what the students would experience. After cleaning my classroom, I look at the clock and realize it is 5:00. Four hours disappeared and I only got 2 of my 5 classes graded.

5:00 pm

I use keep.google.com to make a to-do list for the weekend. My latest attempt to stay on schedule includes me putting times next to each item on the to-do list. This keeps me from telling myself “I’ll get it done later” to so much stuff that I get overwhelmed. Friday night includes creating next week’s quizzes so that I can start planning on Saturday.

5:15 pm

I get home and get to play with my 2-year old, Benji, who is at a great stage of life. Everything is fun and anything can be funny.

10:00 pm After dinner and some more time with my family, we all pray together at 9:23[1]. I can get started on lesson planning, but I get sidetracked by looking at the news (news.google.com). I decide on which quiz to use from the county[2] for 8th grade math and outline the Algebra quiz. It’s now 11:00 and way later than I meant to go to sleep. I will have to do more grading and quiz creation than I had planned on Saturday.


[1] The purpose of this is to remember Luke 9:23. Though I only remember the verse numbers, not the actual verse.

[2] Our county, Frederick County in Maryland, has great teacher resources.

Leave a comment

Filed under Teaching

Link Sheets and New Groups

Link sheets are my favorite way to help students connect the four representations of a function. This day I used them to help students find new groups. In my honors classes they had seen Link sheets before, so they knew what they were supposed to look like, but my merit classes hadn’t yet done link sheets, so this activity worked great as an intro to them for link sheets.

The Activity

I cut up the sheets below into quarters. Notice that every link sheet portrays a different function. I pass these quarters out randomly to the class and they have to find “the rest of their link sheet”. Or as I explained in merit (since they hadn’t done link sheets yet) “find the graph that matches your table, or the equation that matches your graph, etc.”.

The students then answered the questions on each link sheet (same answers on each sheet but different questions!), and then glued the four parts together on a blank paper.

I used this to have them randomly find their new groups and seats, though they wouldn’t have to be permanent. Once everyone finished, we did a gallery walk.

Link to documents in case the iframe is broken.

Link to presentation of instruction in case iframe is broken.

The Result

Most of the students found their groups after some struggle (yay!). I wasn’t prepared for some students getting it wrong; there was one group in each of my merit classes who sat down with the wrong group, so of course there were people walking around looking for their group when their group had sat down already! A quick remedy of this is to simply check in with every group as they sit down. It took me longer than it should have because I was ready for students to be confused, but wasn’t ready for students to be confident in the wrong answer. Don’t assume that students will check each other’s work!


Here’s a completed link sheet.


They should have labeled the point on the graph, too.


One great thing about this lesson is that I got another day out of the materials, while having the students dig deeper! Because every group only saw one link sheet (their own), I gave them a blank link sheet (last page of the document above) and one slice or quarter[1] of another group’s link sheet. They had to fill out the other three parts with their group.

Once they completed it having started with the description quarter, then I gave them a different quarter as a starting point. With each of the non-description quarters, they had to write a description of a situation that matched the function, which many of them enjoyed! I even motivated one student by talking him through his interests and pointing out that he can write a linear function based on how many youtube videos he creates of his bottle-flipping.

I printed the blank link sheet front and back on two sheets so that they would have four link sheets, one starting from each quarter, by the time they were finished.

This whole lesson and extension took two 47 minute periods in honors, who had taken notes about link sheets previously. Homework the second day was “finish the link last link sheet” but most of the students finished it in class already.

In merit, we did notes as well, so over the two days they were only able to fill out two link sheets in their groups (starting with 2 of the 4 quarters).

Checking Their Work



Another good thing about this is I taped up the completed link sheets from the first activity (that had been glued together) and students were able to check their work as they completed each link sheet by walking around the room and finding the same link sheet.


[1] For merit I modified it to begin with two slices or quarters.

Leave a comment

Filed under Teaching

[DITL] September 22nd

6:05 am

I wake up to my phone alarm (my back-up alarm) for the first time this year. Guess I’ve been “thinking about too much” this year to get a really good night’s sleep.


7:00 am

After getting ready, I’m driving to work. Only a ~10 minute commute.

7:10 am

I get to school and begin getting ready. Today is a half-day (end of mid-term/quarter) so there’s no ELT (homeroom). Here’s schedule. (I only put up my classes, 3rd – 7th pd.)


9:20 am

The morning has flown by, but I got organized and was proud of how “ready” each of the things on my desk were. See photos.



Also had the agendas ready. I’ve been better about that this year.


10:36 am

3rd and 4th periods went pretty smoothly (you can see the agenda for a synopsis). I’m really excited to be using Pear Deck and I hope I am able to get it ready for many future lessons.

I announced the winners of the “Amazing Amusement”, my weekly challenge, and I made the girl in 4th period excited. When you win my weekly challenge, you get to a bag of fruit snacks (no candy allowed at our school) and you get to put your name on the Wizard Wall. I’d show you a picture of it, but it has student names on it. Here’s the winner’s work (shortest, most accurate route).


Unfortunately the 6th period student wasn’t in school today, but she does read my blog so maybe she’ll find out she won right here!

For 5th period (Algebra) I got a short 3-act lesson on taxis ready and, though we didn’t finish it, the students enjoyed using the VNPS (whiteboards on the walls). See photos.





And the results of their work:


1:00 pm

The bell rings for the end of the day and I’m a little frustrated at my 7th period because they began putting up chairs and packing up with 2 minutes left while I was showing a video (meat-o-morphosis intro to functions). Well, I guess I should have known: the end of a short day before a long weekend.

4:30 pm

I’m typing up this post because I really want to get home so we can head to the beach! I’m not nearly ready for Monday yet, but I’ll bring grades with me to the beach and hopefully, despite not having internet, I’ll get some work done in preparation for Monday. Where did the last three and a half hours go?!? At least my room is somewhat clean.


1 Comment

Filed under Teaching

[MTBoS Blaugust] Algebra Properties Discovery Lesson

I want my Algebra 1 class to go as fast as possible, yet I also want them to use generation, a la “Make It Stick”[1], as much as possible. So in the middle of the night, when I couldn’t sleep, I came up with this idea.


Generation is the idea of making students struggle with something before you show them how to do it. I’m not really sure yet how much these Algebra I students have learned before this year, so I hope this’ll make it interesting for those kids who already knew it but are seeing it “from a different angle”.

The google slides should be self-explanatory[2].

(Link in case iframe is broken)

Reasons why I like this approach more than what I’ve done in the past:

  • Generation: students deciding for themselves which properties work for which operations.
  • Collaboration (and they’re using whiteboards hanging on the walls)
  • Cross-curricular: taking English definitions and applying those ideas to math concepts.
  • Mistake correcting: students have to explain why certain properties don’t work, which will (hopefully) reduce how much they make that mistake later.


[1] I still haven’t read the book, but I’ve read so much of what others have said about it, that (1) I really want to read the book and (2) I feel like I’m beginning to understand many of the ideas mentioned in the book.

[2] If they’re not, please tell me because I need to tell my students!🙂

1 Comment

Filed under Teaching

[MTBoS Blaugust] The Cover Sheet

I like for students to use cover sheets, but the reason for students can look, on the surface, as rather selfish: “don’t steal my answers!” However, one year I figured out an explanation that makes taking out your cover sheet an altruistic measure.


I’ll type this as a dialogue since that’s the easiest way for me to explain it.

Me: Hey class, I want you to pull out a cover sheet, but does anyone know why we use a cover sheet?

Student: So people don’t CHEAT!

Me: Yes, but there’s another reason. Do you guys ever zone out while thinking or taking a quiz or a test? You know, you’re not really look at the thing where your eyes are pointing? So what if you just zoned out looking at a neighbor’s desk? I can’t see inside your head, so I don’t know that you’re not actually looking at where your eyes are pointing and in that case I would have to assume the worst. We’d have to have a chat after class, probably phone call or email home, and I don’t want to have to do that and I’m sure you don’t. However, if your neighbor had all of their answers covered up, then no-harm-no-foul. You’d be safe and we wouldn’t have to call home. So do you get it when I say “Please take out your cover sheets for your neighbor’s sake”? Nod if you’re with me on that.

*Most students nod*

Me: So please take out a cover sheet for your neighbor’s sake…

Today I had one girl afterwards explain to me that “she zones out looking at the wall, so she’s safe.”

I like how we’ve built up a sense of “we’re in this together, so let’s help each other out” in the classroom, and asking students to take out cover sheets almost feels like a pull in the opposite direction. So I like this explanation because it changes something simple, like a cover sheet, into another way for you to help the people around you.

Leave a comment

Filed under Teaching

[MTBoS] Day 4 of a New Year

Day 4 has been the best day yet. I’m really starting to see the students “get it”[1] when it comes to the Visual Pattern math talks, and we’re only 4 days in!!


Here’s a picture that sums up where we are:


Work is underway!

This picture is a good summary for several reasons:

  • I got a ticket out done in every class today! (Progress, wohoo!)
  • The Green means “Got it!” while the pink means “Need help!”. Blue and Yellow are in between.
  • Therefore many students get it, but several have a ways to go.
  • This “Ticket Out” display still has a ways to go: I have to put the meaning of each color somewhere!
  • The Ticket Outs are part of my big personal goal this year, and therefore this is meaningful in a lot of ways. I realized in the past that I’ve hesitated to collect some kind of formative assessment because then I might have to change what I’m doing. Reading (browsing) them all is enough extra work: changing my plans on top of that is even more! However, I’ve come to realize that this is one of the characteristics of good teaching: understanding the students well enough to adapt your teaching frequently. Recognizing that I didn’t want to put that much time in to adapt was a huge hurdle for me and one of the things that has helped me to actually have students do (and collect and read them). Each following day I try to read some and point out good answers and good mistakes (anonymously for the mistakes), and I think it impresses upon the students that I read these and care that they get it.

I’m excited for this year and we’re only 1 week in!


[1] Mostly because of a few that shout “I get it!!!” in the middle of our discussion.



Filed under Teaching