Entrance Table

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New Blogger Initiative Post #1 (Prompt 5): Take a photograph of something you’re proud of. It could be something from your classroom. Something a student gave to you/wrote for you. A bulletin board. A poster. A jar of candy you keep in your office to share with students. Explain what it means to you…

While the student voted superlative “Most Likely To Save The World” certificate hangs nicely on my bulletin board, there is no question in mind that I am most proud of my entrance table. Yes, my entrance table.

Students pick up all worksheets, homework, and supplies on their way into the classroom so that I do not have to waste any class time distributing items. This procedure is taught on day 1 when students pick up their information cards and syllabus. Some teachers expect that students will begin to work on the homework assignment rather than listen if they have it in front of them, but they don’t. Not in my experience anyways. The occasional student will get right to work on the assignment if they know how to do it, but most of my students barely glance at a sheet until I tell them to look at it.

It takes a good deal of effort and organization on my part, but it is totally worth it. If you have back to back classes that are different subjects, then you will need to switch the materials sometime during the class period, so that everything is set up appropriately for the next class. I usually do this during the first 5 minutes of the period while students are working on the warm up, or half way through class when students are switching to an activity or group work. At the same time, I quickly write an absent student’s name on each sheet and slip the pages into the absent file folder so that I don’t have to worry about that later.

What does the entrance table mean to me? It means that students come in, see that I’m ready for them, and know there is a plan for the day. It means that if someone makes a mistake and needs a new sheet, they can just go get one without interrupting the entire class. It means that an administrator or colleague who enters the room can grab a sheet and immediately know what we’re working on. It means seamless transitions between activities. And most importantly, it means that valuable class time is spent learning and doing math, rather than getting ready to do math.

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New Year. New Procedures.

Math Notebook

For the past two years I have “required” students to use a three-ring binder with dividers. I say “required” because I did not have a consequence for if and when a student inevitably did not have said binder in class. I thought by hole-punching everything, it would be easy for them to stay as organized as I do. I was wrong. I thought by requiring dividers (notes, homework, quizzes, projects), they would immediately put everything in its place. I was wrong. Since I believe that a neat, organized binder will help students complete assignments on time and assist in assessment preparation, I’m going to make a few changes this year…

  • 3-ring binder, NO dividers
  • Table of Contents page
  • Binder checks

Dividers, I have realized, are not necessary because they tend to make it harder for students to find and place their handouts… “Does this go under notes or classwork?” I don’t use dividers to organize my materials, so why should they? I’m going to teach students to place everything in the binder in the order that it is distributed, and document each sheet on the table of contents. Hopefully the large sticky note on my front table (BINDER!) will remind me to do this. The binder checks will be twice per term, consisting of five questions in which the answers can easily be found from note pages, class activities, and homework. If students follow the notebook directions, they should earn easy classwork points. If they don’t, they won’t.

 

Late Projects

Old policy: I will accept any project late, for a penalty, until the end of each term.

Old thinking: Life happens and sometimes you just can’t turn in a project the day it’s due.  But I want every student to complete every project. So I wanted to give every possible opportunity for a student to attempt the project and change that zero in my online grade book.

Problem: Students viewed my project deadlines and due dates as mere suggestions. They knew they had until the end of the term, so they procrastinated. Of course, there are always special circumstances. However, more often than not, students simply didn’t do the project on time because they knew they didn’t have to (and apparently I wasn’t harsh enough when penalizing points).

New policy: Project is due ________________. A letter grade will be deducted each day the project is late (aka you only have five days to turn it in or it’s a zero).

New thinking: I need to hold students more accountable and help them manage their time. I will set up project check-ins (more frequently during term 1) to make sure everyone is on track to finish on time. Students who I identify as needing extra help or time, will be given frequent teacher check-ins and email reminders. Students who do not pass in a project on the actual day it’s due will have a meeting with me and a quick email sent home. My hope is that by communicating this expectation from the beginning of the year, and enforcing it as the first project deadline comes and goes, the students will learn the importance of abiding by due dates.