Favorited Tweets #2

Last year I described some the tweets I had favorited here. After another lull in blogging, I thought this might be an easy way to jump back in. Here are some recent tweets that I favorited, forgot about it, and now want to document.

1) Math Coherence Activity from Achieve the Core: This activity would be great for teachers on a PD day. Teachers must place the standards in the correct progression order without looking.

2) Row Games: Kate describes them very well in her blog post, and when Rachel was looking for one on properties of Exponents, Lisa directed her to this folder with a plethora of them!

3) This awesome graph/activity from the Shell Centre written about by Megan and tweeted about by Cliff.

4) CueThink: This tweet below from Caryn Trautz and this blog post from Andrew Stadel were my first introductions to CueThink.

Norma Gordon from CueThink has since presented at the Global Math Department and you can find the webinar here. It’s an app that will change the way our students communicate, problem solve, and receive feedback. Check. It. Out.


Learning Targets and Success Criteria

I haven’t written a blog post since November and feel like I’ve been in a funk. I feel like I haven’t had anything to say or contribute, and the longer I stay away from posting, the harder I feel it is to get back into it. But this weekend, registration for Twitter Math Camp opened for individuals who have attended in the past (it will open for everyone else on 2/22!), and this was just the kick I needed to write again…

After winter break, our district had a half day of professional development, where each school heard a presentation from the principal on “Learning Targets and Success Criteria.” We were encouraged to read this chapter from “Advancing Formative Assessment in Every Classroom” before the presentation. The presentation was followed by department break-out sessions to discuss the topic in more depth.

Our district leadership has requested that all teachers post and share with students the “Learning Targets” and “Success Criteria” for each day’s lesson. They may be posted on a white board for the entire class, or teachers can choose to project them sometime during the lesson. The key is that they are discussed with students and referred to throughout the lesson. “Learning Targets” are basically the same thing as objectives. “Success Criteria” provide the student with strategies for assessing their work. The goal is for students to be able to explain WHAT they are learning and HOW they know if they are being successful or not. The target does not have to change every day. In my Algebra 2 example below, I planned to keep that target up for two weeks while students learned how to solve quadratic equations by factoring, using the quadratic formula, and completing the square.

I have mixed feelings about this, as do many teachers at my school. Many feel that this is just another initiative that will disappear in a few years. And that it’s an awful lot of work to write each day. Myself, I really struggled with the language of the targets vs. the criteria.
Target & Critera 1

I originally posted mine as “I can…” followed by “I will…” But I saw other teachers posting it the reverse way: “I will be able to…” followed by “If I can…” and the wording really bothered me. If I have to do this every day, I need to be able to work with it. One of my colleagues suggested that I write ALL statements starting with “I can…” and this now really makes a lot of sense to me.
Target & Criteria 2

The target is the big picture; what can students do at the end of the lesson? The success criteria is the target broken down into manageable chunks so that students can see where they are in the process. It makes sense that both of these are written as “I can” lists for students to mentally (or physically because I hand out a target list at the beginning of each unit) check off.

So, we’ll see how this goes. Not sure if I’ll notice any changes in students’ understanding based on this required change, but it will definitely be a constant presence in my lesson planning now. If you have any experience with writing learning targets and/or success criteria, I’d love to hear from you!

Excel Lesson Planner

My first year teaching I used a regular planbook given to me by the school. Then, one of my colleagues shared this excel document with me and it changed my life: Algebra 2 Curriculum by the Month 2013-2014. I’ve included one blank page in it and one page filled out with my October lesson plans for Algebra 1 from last year:

October Plans

The rows within a week breakdown like this:
Row 1: Type of Day at school
Row 2: Unit Title
Row 3: Warm Up Activity
Rows 4-6: Main Lesson Activities
Row 7: Homework

Each day isn’t extremely detailed but I know what I mean when I give each activity a title. This works so well for me because I like to map things out pretty far in advance and see a grand overview of the month. At the same time, it grants me the flexibility to easily move activities and lessons around as needed. It’s also very convenient if you teach the same course year after year. I’m in the process of creating a new blank one because I don’t have one for Algebra 2 yet.

Summer To Do List


Our school year ended on Monday and everyone I bump into keeps asking me what I’m going to do all summer. A lot actually! I’ll definitely be enjoying some days at the beach, nights at the drive in, vacations to DisneyWorld, New Jersey, and Bermuda, but there will also be a lot of schoolwork happening…

Professional Development 

  • Data Coach Training – About 40 administrators and educators from my district elected to take part in this training sponsored by Research for Better Teaching (RBT) to learn how to “Unleash the Power of Collaborative Inquiry.” We will become data coaches and lead data teams this coming school year.
  • Twitter Math Camp ’13 – Woot woot!
  • Laying the Foundation Pre-Ap Training – I’ll be attending the Year 3 HS Math Training sponsored by the National Math and Science Initiative.
  • How to Learn Math – An online course from Stanford Math Ed Professor Jo Boaler

Books to Read

  • Teach Like A Pirate by Dave Burgess
  • Embedded Formative Assessment by Dylan William
  • Invent to Learn by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager

Curriculum to Work On

  • STEM Stuff – My team is meeting for a few days to debrief the past year, set up new norms, and most importantly, decide what we liked about the projects we did and what we want to change. The majority of our time will be spent editing project guidelines/rubrics and making new ones.
  • Algebra 1 – I’m feeling pretty good about Algebra 1 since I’m teaching it for the 3rd year in a row; however, I’ve signed up for this morning session at TMC13 and know I’ll come back with lots of new ideas to work on! I’m also getting together with a group of teachers from my school in August to create common assessments for each of the eight Algebra 1 units we have.
  • Algebra 2 – I’m teaching two college prep sections next year, and haven’t taught it for two years. I need to spend some time organizing those materials to figure out what can be used again and what needs to be changed.

Other Stuff to Work On

  • Classroom Posters – I want to print some pretty, inspirational signs to add color and  pizzazz to my room. The only ones I’m keeping from this past year are: 1) Boston University Banner 2) Excellence Surfer Poster 3) Favorite Quote from Howard Thurman



  • Daily Warm Ups – My students do a warm up at the beginning of every class, and I’ve been awful at keeping track of them over the past three years. Some are in word docs, some powerpoint, some I make up 30 seconds before class starts and scribble on the white board. I want to put them all in one place.
  • Blogging – I have a lot of posts on my “To Write” list, and this will be forever expanding as I attend the aforementioned PD sessions and read the aforementioned books.

Entrance Table


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.

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.