Tag Archives: Classroom Culture

Teaching Reflections + One Good Thing

After school today we had a staff meeting where we talked about reflecting on teaching and I realized I hadn’t reflected here in a while.

One reason I think I “took my foot off the gas” was because at the start of last year, an 8th grader told me “I found your blog and read what you’re teaching us–will we also be doing this activity and that activity?” On the one hand, that was great. On the other hand, this student had the potential to spoil and surprises that I had for others, so it kinda killed my blogging momentum.

Right now I think no students know about this, so I’m going to get back in the habit of reflecting on my teaching regularly.

So for today I just wanted to say one thing that happened in my class that has solidified one practice I do for the rest of my teaching career.

A student walking into my room to ask me a question. Her friend, probably an upperclassmen (Jr. or Sr.), who I do not know, came in with her and commented “that’s cool” pointing to my birthday whiteboard where I write student’s birthdays and half-birthdays.

If a student whose name isn’t on there likes that, think how much more that means when I recognize students’ birthdays and half-birthdays by writing it on the board even if I forget to tell them Happy Birthday on their birthday.

I will forever write student’s birthdays somewhere in my room for as long as I teach.

Yes, a student wrote down a fake name while they were in tutoring and I was out of the room at a faculty meeting.

And yes, it’s my wife’s birthday this week. Don’t worry, I’ve got a really good birthday present for her! I just hope it arrives on time.

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End of Year Shots

The students are gone (well, graduation is tomorrow), and I’m cleaning up my room for the last time here at Rehoboth. I’m actually starting to get a bit nostalgic already, so I started taking pictures of things around the room. Thought I’d share them here, perhaps to remind myself next year of what worked and what didn’t.

2016 Board

I found this from someone else online (I gave them credit in a previous post) and it started several students talking about math between classes!

Tutoring Sign-ups

Tutoring sign-up. Each of these sheets has about ~35 names, so in all I helped over students 300 times in tutoring. Most of those came right before report cards.

Hall Pass + Mole

Found an old “Laser Disk” and turned it into a hall pass. Oh, and a student crocheted me a mole for extra credit (back when I gave it) for Mole Day!


Agenda on the wall. I used to write this daily, but I forgot so many days. Doing it weekly gave students a heads up, told absent students what we did yesterday, and had all week’s homework up there. Definitely do this “weekly” again next year.

Messy Drawer

The right side of this picture is older stuff and left is newer. Used to give extra credit “choice cards” for doing your HW, always need tape for labeling chemistry glassware, gum for chemistry’s gum lab, dice are important for any math teacher to have, and the box of orange markers for students to grade themselves. I’ll be taking much of that with me.

Mole Day Moles

Ahh, back when I did “Participation Points”, students could bring in a mole for Mole Day. One cunning student even brought in a mole with Avogadro’s number (6.02*10^23) on it. Future students were allowed to look up and see the mole on any quiz or test where they needed it.

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Post-Quiz Discussion

Every Friday I give a quiz [1]. I know some teachers are against that, but it helps establish a routine, students expect it (no more “what, there’s a quiz today?!?”), and it gets my class into a rhythm so I know I need to cut out unnecessary fluff if we’re working too long on one topic[2].

Anyway, I’ve always struggled with what to do after a quiz. Last week I tried something new that I think I’m going to do more often next year. After they turned in their papers, I gave students the quiz on Google Classroom [3]. But this time the whole class is sharing the same quiz. So students who did well on the quiz can jump on and start answer the questions. Students who didn’t do so well can jump on and ask questions (or just watch to see what the answers are… including work shown.) The whole class does a collaborative effort (ideally).

Students seemed to like the idea. I don’t know if it’s the novelty for most of them, but several definitely liked the immediate feedback this offered. Of course we could just go over the quiz, but this is so much more interactive (and immediate). Also, I can keep an eye out for misconceptions that the whole class has on certain topics.

There was some distraction, but fortunately in Google Classroom I can see all edits, so I warned students not to put anything on there that they would be ashamed to show their parents.

2nd Period Chemistry:

4th Period Chemistry:

What do you do in your post-quiz time when students finish at different rates?

[1] Right now this is only in Chemistry, but I’m hoping to do at least some sort of adaptive checkup in Precal and Physics next year.

[2] Some topics take longer, but I hope that the flexibility in adjusting labs allows me to be adaptive and yet rigid at the same time.

[3] If you don’t have Google classroom, you can still share the quiz with students by collecting their e-mail addresses and sharing the document with everyone in the class.


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My Physics Class on the Ropes Course

My school is fortunate enough to have a ropes course on campus. Not only had I never done it, but most of my students hadn’t done it before, and for Physics students that’s a tragedy. So I decided to do it, not as a physics lesson, but as a team-building activity. We’ll definitely look at the physics later on, but to start, I care more that they learn a few other lessons. Here are some pictures of one challenge, which is definitely Physics-heavy.

IMG_20140903_105018463 IMG_20140903_110020166 IMG_20140903_110813355_HDR IMG_20140903_110821607

BFPM, anyone? Here are the things I typed down that I wanted them to take away from today’s “lesson”.

  • You can learn so much by trial and error, but if you aren’t willing to make mistakes, you’ll never learn.
  • It is more rewarding, I think because you learn more, to learn without someone telling you how to do it.
  • I specifically asked not to do the course with you guys. What do you think would have happened if I had been working on it with you? What does that mean about the classroom?
  • Talking about opposing forces: be as specific as possible. Take time to analyze.
  • Use your partners/teammates. “A cord of three stands is not easily broken.”

We already did the Marshmallow Challenge. I hope these things are working to build the type of classroom culture that is best for learning physics using a Modelling curriculum.

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