Monthly Archives: October 2016

[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,, and QFT (see

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 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 ( 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.

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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.

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