Tag Archives: Middle School

Getting ready for a new Job

After five years of teaching in Gallup, we just moved from New Mexico to Maryland to get closer to family. That means I’ve, fortunately, got a new job teaching 8th graders. Four classes of 8th grade math (2 “merit” and 2 “honors”[1]) and 1 class of Algebra 1.

I’m just trying to wrap my mind around the job because I’ve had trouble getting started on anything. Maybe it’s because we just moved to a new house, living with my wife’s parents, who are great. Maybe it’s because we’ve had 3 family vacations (4 if you count the move!) in the past month and a half. Or maybe it’s because there’s a baby that could decide it wants to come as I’m typing this, in which case I’ll finish this post after my wife has our second child.

So yeah, I’m scatterbrained.

Here’s a list of things that I need to do soon, in no order:

  • Set up my classroom:
    • Get posters
    • Think about seating (it’s been 5 years since I’ve had my own classroom!!)
    • Purchase things like manipulatives, whiteboards, trays & folders for papers, extra writing utensils, stamps, etc. (What am I forgetting?)
  • Plan the first day of class
    • Get to know you surveys
    • Jump right into problem solving/math task
  • Plan second day of class
    • Go over routines & expectations
  • Plan warm-ups and routines
    • Study Math Talks more
  • Look into available technology and make tasks using those when it’s productive
  • Create assessments (this should come before planning tasks/lessons)
  • Consider “early year” things I want to accomplish
    • Growth Mindset
    • Grades talk (go hand in hand with above), SBG
    • Problem Solving Strategies (Devil’s Bridge Crossing Problem)
    • Get-to-know-you sheets
    • Get routines established
      • Warm ups
        • Visual Patterns
        • Estimation180
        • WODB
        • Math Talks
      • Quote of the week (?)
      • How to take a quiz (self-grading!)
      • How to re-assess
      • Explain Lagging HW
      • Explain old standards showing up again on new quizzes/assessments
      • Plickers
      • Recognizing Birthdays
    • Ninja Wall
  • Learn what I need to stay up to date on accreditation of my teaching license
  • Learn about the PBIS system at my school (Positive Behavior Incentive School)
  • Learn about other discipline policies at my school
  • Learn all this little things (printer, laminator, etc.) at my school!
  • Figure out how the pacing guide for the county works
  • Read all the MS blogs compiled by Julie (ha…)

I’ve dropped by my new classroom and here are some pictures of the new room (no work done yet!).

I should post this and get to work!


[1] Though I’m trying not to put too much stock into the prior categorization of students.


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An Assignment of Which I am (was) Proud

So I now teach Precalculus, Physics, and Chemistry, and this is the beginning of year 2.  I wish I had more assignments I was proud of, but last year when I had three preps, I really just stole a lot of lesson ideas and adapted them, so there were very few, if any, that were original.  However, the year before I started teaching all these subject, I created a lot more of my own lessons.  Incidentally, that was also my first year of teaching (causation, or just a correlation?).  I still remember my best activity throughout that whole year.

So I was not a very good middle school teacher.  I had the patience, but I just didn’t have the discipline, and that combination only prolongs the amount of time before the classes reaches a level chaos where learning is impossible.  I tried so many different things, and because the students knew I didn’t start the year being strict, they ate me up alive and nothing worked.  However when we did this activity, the students were so silent, you could hear a pin drop.  We played Coordinate Battleship!

This activity occurred soon after we learned about the coordinate system.  I split the class in half, and pitted one side against the other.  I passed out top-secret battleship maps (Battleship Map A and Battleship Map B are two examples) so that one side received one set of ships and the other side received the other.  The students would then take turns “firing” on each others’ ships, but they had to be very precise with their wording: “Parenthasis, three, comma, negative four, parenthasis”, otherwise there was a “miscommunication” and the missile didn’t launch property.  Teams alternated turns and students went on down the row.  Students had to listen because they didn’t want to “re-shoot” where their teammates had already fired.  They were also required to listen to the other team’s shots because if they couldn’t (as a team) correctly answer whether it was a “hit” or a “miss”, then they automatically lost a ship!  My favorite rule was that while someone was firing, on either team, if you spoke and it was not your turn (or you didn’t raise your hand), then you caused a “misscommunication” on your team (because the military is very strict) and you lost a turn!  This kids ate it up and it was great!!  Everyone was focused and students really wanted each other to succeed.  They would silently help each other figure out how the coordinate system worked and where other members on their team fired.

Most things about middle school I don’t miss, but getting to capture their attention through a silly little game where they are learning mathematics and don’t even know it is one of the little things that I do miss.  Of course, that simply did not happen enough for me to be a super-successful middle school teacher, and so here I am in high school and very glad of it (for now).

Here is a powerpoint that includes all the rules of battleship, the way I ran it; and here is another, shorter version of the battleship instructions (we played it a few times throughout the year).  Later on, when we learned about lines, the students would give me the formula for a line (point-slope form: y=mx+b), and then they would get a torpedo which would hit all the points that it intersected (I figured this out for them, but more advanced students could do this on their own!).  To make it fair, every 5th person on each team would get a torpedo.  They never figured out that if the slope is zero, you get to hit a ton of points…


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