Made4Math - Digital Word Walls

I've really missed blogging and participating in #Made4Math, so after reading so many wonderful ideas over the past few months, I'm happy to be able to contribute to this week's collection.

Several years ago, we jumped on the "Word Wall" bandwagon, and teachers in all content areas learned the importance of vocabulary building, displaying vocabulary, and actively using their word walls.

Had to throw in an English teacher's example, too! 

Fast forward several years, and we're now in the digital age.  One of our junior high teachers, Omar P., who teaches at a technology magnet school and who has created this fantastic informational site, led us into the 21st century with his idea of digital word walls.  (His site includes informational videos, app reviews, and presentations, and his work is helping our entire district!)

At a recent staff development, Omar shared his ideas and how he used his digital word walls, so I created one for my class and wanted to share this great strategy.

Instead of posting words/pictures/diagrams on a bulletin board, the same types of images are stored in folders on your iPad or computer.  Using the slideshow option, you can project the pictures as students are entering the classroom, while they're working on an activity, or during tutoring time.

I created my pictures using screen shots of handwritten notes, of Keynote slides, and of slides using a presentation app called Haiku deck.  I also plan to take pictures of the students' work and add those slides to the folder.  Omar has more iPads in his classroom, so he has had students create word walls using Keynote.  You could also find free images online for additional pictures or backgrounds.
Made using the Haiku deck app

I also included a few slides that were quotes or reminders about strategies for working these problems.

Our test is this week, so for the next few days, I plan to have these slides showing as the students enter the room.  (If you want to see the other slides, my trig identity folder is here.  I just noticed that the Haiku deck app provided a background that misspelled "adjacent," so I'm not too happy about that, but other than that, the slides were pretty and the app was easy to use.)  

I love the fact that these folders of pictures can be saved, changed, and shared.  Teachers and students could collaborate on unit folders, share photos, and update the words/images each year.  As we're reviewing for finals and preparing for other tests, we'll have these folders of pictures easily available and ready to go.  If you would like more information, Omar has a video explanation here about how he has used the digital word wall in his classroom.

Do you have a word wall in your classroom?  How do you use your word wall?  How do you reinforce vocabulary in your classroom?


Seating Charts are Now a Breeze!

This post probably should be a "My Favorite Friday" post, but since I'm not starting it until Sunday night, I'll add it to "Made4Math!"  (I finally had a chance to catch up on great blogs from so many people!  What a fabulous way to spend a few hours this afternoon.)

I used the same (ancient) computerized seating chart program for many years, but alas, it no longer worked on Windows 7.  Thanks to one of our math teachers, many of us are now using Smart Seat, and we are all loving this app!  (We agree that it was well worth $3.99.)

Smart Seat is strictly a seating chart/attendance app, but you may also make notes on each student.  

The app allows you to easily change room layouts, and here's a screen shot of my class grouped by "tables."  For the display, I can choose to include first names, first and last names, or first names and pictures.  

Here's a sample class of rows, and I included a couple of pictures for demo purposes only.  (My cat didn't mind posing for a picture!)

You may also add icons to each name to help create an instructional seating chart.  Another cool features is the "Random" button, which provides an in-app random name generator.  The students you have called on are highlighted until you click "Done," so you know who has participated.

I imported all of my students' names using a .txt file, and it was a very simple process.  There are a few other options to change the text size, orientation, and exporting features.  You may save and print each chart as a PDF.

My friend Laura contacted the app developer a couple times, and they were very helpful and immediately responded to her questions, so that's another plus for me. 

To change seats, just hold and drag a student's name to a new location!  There is also an option to scramble all seats to quickly create a new, random seating chart.

I practiced with the Teacherkit app this summer, which also includes a grade book feature, but as of now, I still prefer Smart Seat.  (Teacherkit is free, though!)  

Which teacher productivity apps do you love?  

Have a great week!



Homework Contemplations

I am so grateful that the #HSSunFun topic of the week is homework!  It's time for me to re-evaluate my system, so this post has motivated me to get thinking.  Thank you @Carol_Leonard for compiling our blogs.

Over my many years of teacher, I think I have tried every HW policy ever shared with me, and these are my take-aways from all of the attempts:

  • Whether I have 60 or 150 students, I am terrible about checking and returning papers on a daily basis.  
  • My purpose of assigning homework is to practice a new skill.  As we all probably do, I tell the students that just as they must practice music, sports, or playing video games, they must somehow practice the new skills learned in math, which could involve working (and re-working) problems.
  • I realized that I'm very OK if students do not have an assignment completed the next day after it is assigned.  Students are involved in extra-curricular activities, or they work, or they have an AP English 3 project due, and they often face busy, late nights.  So for me, HW deadlines are negligible, but I want their homework finished before the unit test, just so they have had opportunities to practice and ask questions.
  • Students want to be acknowledged for their work, and they don't seem to care if it's a stamp, check mark, or a grade.
I have tried...collecting and checking homework daily and collecting stacks of papers at the end of the unit.  I have given HW quizzes, where students re-copy 5-6 problems straight from a week of assignments, a la David R. Johnson's 1990 book, Making Every Minute Count.  I have collected notebooks and graded a few random problems.  I have rolled a die and collected a row of HW assignments.  I have collected HW assignments and have graded only 1 problem on each paper.  I have had a "surprise" HW policy, where I could collect, check, or ignore HW on any given day of the week.  I've checked homework on completion using a rubric and a score of 10, 7, 5, 3, or 0.  I've checked homework on completion with a YES or NO--complete or not, 5 or 0.

For most years of teaching, I have checked HW on completion.  Students begin with a 100 HW average, and each assignment is worth 5 points.  For every assignment they skip, I deduct 5 points.  For extra goodness (super explanation, working extra problems, showing how they've re-learned something, peer tutoring) I add points to their HW average.  I have an Excel chart for each class period, and I always have my clipboard close by for checking, adding, and subtracting points.  At the end of the grading period, they only receive one grade for a HW average, but with the chart, I have documentation about what they have done.  (I can't believe I found an old check sheet around my house this morning!)

This procedure has worked fairly well over the years, and it has worked extremely well when the students are self-motivated.  In my classes with younger or ESL students, the stamp sheet idea (blogged here) seemed to help the students with an extra step of organization.

As I'm writing this, or until I see something new to try when I read other blogs, I think I'm going to continue with the completion-check-system with each assignment 5 points, but I think I will add a twist I learned at an AP summer institute.  The instructor checked daily homework on completion; however, if a student made 85 or greater on a "big test," he was excused from the homework checks until the next test.  Who were the students who made >85 on tests?  The students who somehow practiced their work in whatever way worked for them.  Differentiation is a district initiative this year, so I believe this homework policy will be one small way to differentiate a class process.

This post was a great exercise for rethinking my homework purposes and policies, and it's great to have this forum for reflections. But I am really looking forward to reading about other homework policies.  I still have a whole week before the students return...so I have plenty of time to read other great ideas and change my mind!


Made4Math - What is Your WHY?

Today's #Made4Math is a bit different, but I think it is a good, reflective "project" for back to school.

Last year, I started a new job as one of our school's two instructional coaches.  Our principal was reading Simon Sinek's book Start With Whyand she thought ideas in the book would be good for our faculty, and she wanted us to implement something.  I immediately downloaded the book, watched Sinek's TED talk, and started thinking about how we could carry out the idea of a WHY for our school and teachers.  (It was very interesting to read a "business" book and relate it to teaching and education, by the way.)

According to Sinek, every person and organization knows What they do and most know How they do it, but few can clearly state Why they do what they do.  He asks you to determine: what’s your purpose, what’s your cause, what’s your belief, and why does your organization exist? 

To encourage our teachers to develop their WHY's, we introduced the concept during our August professional development days.  We allowed each department time to prepare a WHY, and then we shared all of the creations.  Teams took pictures, wrote a philosophy, performed a skit, and the math department may or may not have choreographed a dance.  ("Math Rocks, baby," a la "Ice Ice baby."  If you've got a problem, we’ll all solve it. Check out the math, it’s not magic it’s logic...could have happened...)  My personal WHY is this quote by Benjamin Disraeli: The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but to reveal to him his own.  All of the WHY's had the same themes and were about helping the kids succeed, moving students closer to graduation, preparing them for the future, and becoming good citizens in the community.

My work partner and I chose the sayings below as our WHY.  We typed up the quotes, got a frame, and put the flyer in a prominent location in our office.  As in any new role, there were several times during the year that we were both floundering; however, any time we questioned our work, our progress, and our leadership, we would refer to our WHY.  Had we helped our teachers?  Did we ease anyone else's burden?  At a particularly stressful time in May, I moved our WHY very close to our desks to remind us that yes, we had succeeded and had a good year.  

How does this relate to #Made4Math?  Because our WHY helped focus us throughout the year, I decided to make our "poster" a bit prettier, thanks to @mathtastrophe's tutoring on ColourLovers.  (She was right, and even a non-artsy person like me could spend a long time on the site playing with patterns and palettes.)  I can't wait to hang our WHY in our office!

For you...
I would like to encourage you to ask yourself, “What is my WHY?”  What is your purpose or your cause for being a teacher?  If you are a veteran teacher, why do you remain a teacher?  Type up your WHY and put it in a frame; share it with your students, make it a screen saver, stick it on a post-it by your computer, or write it on your board.  New educators--you usually write a teaching philosophy during your prep programs, but can you condense your feelings into a sentence or two?  Veteran teachers: when have you formally re-stated your reasons WHY you became a teacher?  (It's time to think about those reasons again!) 

On your challenging days, and you know they'll happen, look over your WHY, meditate for a minute, and remember the excitement and the enthusiasm you felt on the first day of school.

Have a wonderful week!  If this is your first week back, good luck and have fun!


First Day Fun

I keep thinking the summer will never end!  But students return in two weeks, and my schedule just changed, so #HSSunFun is the perfect opportunity to really get focused on my class, and I'm certain I'll be inspired by what's happening in other classrooms.  Thank you, @Carol_Leonard, for organizing the high school teachers!

In previous years, my first day priorities were as follows: brief introductions (self, each other, room) brief discussion about procedures, and start the math.  (I still have that agenda in mind, but with our study of mindset and our shift towards differentiation, I now have a few new plans for the day/week...and that will be another post!)

I've always appreciated the distinction between rules and procedures, and I definitely do not want to spend the period going over all of the syllabus details.  I have a few broad rules and many procedures, and those procedures make our classroom run smoothly. During the week, I explain our class procedures as needed and as situations arise... pick up your papers from this table as you enter the room, immediately look at the board/screen to see your first instructions, pass out papers this way, sharpen your pencil before the bell and after the lesson, etc.  We continue reviewing procedures throughout the first few weeks, and when new students arrive, I ask the veteran students to share our classroom procedures with the new students.

In our pre-calculus class, we hit the ground running with trigonometry.  When I discovered wordle a few years ago, I was looking for any excuse to incorporate a wordle into a lesson and had an idea.
I created this wordle using descriptions and definitions of trigonometry that I pasted from several math websites.  I make a copy for the students and ask them to "analyze" the wordle and to sort the words in any way they choose.  (I also share how I created the wordle and explain that the larger words occur more frequently in the text.)  I ask students to compare their lists with their neighbors, and then they share some of their "sorts."  Next, I ask students questions such as:
  • What do you think are the important ideas in trigonometry (based on the "big" words)?
  • What do you remember about functions? What other functions have you studied?
  • What do you remember about triangles?
  • What other familiar words do you see?
  • What new words did you find? (radians, cosecant, cotangent are the most common answers)
  • Did you find any "real life" words on the wordle? (engineering, astronomy, measuring)
  • Do you think trig is related more to algebra or geometry?  Why?
  • Did you notice the word circle?  How do you think circles and triangles could be related?
We discuss the idea that trigonometry will involve a lot of familiar territory, but it will also be a whole new language and a new way of thinking about triangles, angles, and circles.  And I let them know that yes, we will discover a connection between circles and triangles!  

Students tape the wordle into their notebooks and as we talk about new concepts, I ask them to go back and check the wordle, find the word and review how they sorted the term.  During the first few weeks, we return to the sorted lists, rearrange the words, and try to make new connections between the words and concepts.

I like this activity because in a very "ease your brain out of summer" way, it reviews some algebra and geometry, previews a bit of trig, and allows students to start making connections between previously learned concepts and the new world of trigonometry.

Last week, I attended several sessions of great professional development, and I can't wait to write-up ideas about developing my classroom culture/community and helping students change their mindset about math.  Stay tuned!



My Favorite Friday - Easiest Chicken Recipe Ever!

Considering the back to school schedules this week, I thought I would contribute to the “easiest recipe ever” genre of post. 

I agree completely with @druinok’s philosophy of cooking, and this recipe fits the bill: few ingredients, no prep work, and 1 container to clean.

Mexican Crock-Pot Chicken
3-4 chicken breasts (frozen is fine!)
1 pkg taco seasoning
10 oz can of Ro-tel (diced tomatoes with green chilies)

Optional ingredients:
can of yellow corn (drained)
can of black beans (rinsed a bit & drained)
toppings, such as sour cream, avocado, picante sauce, cilantro, shredded cheese
depending on how you serve it-tortillas, lettuce, taco shells, tortilla chips

Place the chicken in the crock pot.  Sprinkle the package of taco seasoning on the chicken, and pour the can of tomatoes on top.  Cook on high for 4-6 hours.  The chicken will practically fall apart when it is cooked.  At that point, you may take the pieces out of the crock pot, and using two forks, pull/shred the chicken, and return it to the pot for a bit more tenderizing.

After you shred the chicken, you may add the corn and/or black beans and allow it all to cook for another hour.  For the last part of the cooking, you may wish to cook with the crock-pot cover off to help the liquid evaporate.

You now have plenty of chicken to serve in a variety of ways.  If the chicken is still too soupy, use a slotted spoon and…
-use as a filler for hard tacos or soft tacos
-pile a spoonful or two on top of a bed of lettuce for a chicken salad
-make quesadillas using 2 flour tortillas and cheese
-scoop the chicken on top of a bed of tortilla chips for a “casserole” dish
-if you include the liquid part, you could almost have a chicken soup

So easy, so quick and so filling!  It’s great to make during a busy week and if your family is not huge, there are plenty of leftovers for the next few lunches.

Happy Friday!


Made4Math - Partner Quizzes + Extras!

Today's #Made4Math post has once again been inspired by a few tweets and blogs!  Thanks to @druinok for organizing the posts, and I look forward to reading and learning from so many others.

I am what is politely referred to as a veteran teacher, so when I first started teaching (ahem, 1990) everything was teacher directed, i.e. stand-and-deliver, students in rows and quietly taking notes.  When teachers realized that we had to change our ways, our district helped us get our feet wet by using Kagan cooperative structures.  I probably use variations of "Think-Pair-Share" more than any other technique, but my second favorite strategy is the 2-person Rally Coach, or as my students call it, a partner quiz, and I have included one example is below:
Rt Triangle Trig Rally

The Rally Coach was a great way to ease my way into successful group work. Directions may be found here, but I've included a few additional hints and benefits:
  • When writing the quiz, I try to divide the questions' difficulty level as even as possible, so person A doesn't have all of the "easy questions."
  • Use only one piece of paper and one pencil (and calculator) per pair, so the students truly have to share and work together.
  • The first times I give this type of assessment, I also talk about the benefits of teaching others.  I tell students if you can explain something to someone else, or if you can analyze work and find an error, you've got it.  My favorite part of the activity is listening to the students' great math conversations.
  • I also talk about the importance of coaching, being positive and how to politely disagree.  As person A explains her problem, person B listens and coaches.  Once person B agrees with person A's answer, he initials the paper to confirm the work.  (In my class, I ask students to initial and write a positive comment.  Best comment written on this quiz: "That's Shrek-tastic!")
  • I usually make at least one of these questions very interesting, and students really need to use each other to complete the activity.  (The quiz above isn't difficult, but I provide too much information, so the kids have little debates about how to answer the last question.  It's great!)
  • This type of activity always takes longer than expected, so plan your time accordingly.
  • Floating teacher bonus: since I do not have my own classroom, this activity gives us an easy opportunity to practice moving desks and returning them to the original position in another teacher's classroom.
Building relationships bonus:  At the bottom of my quizzes and tests, I usually write a little non-math question, such as "What great books have you recently read?" or "Any good news to share?" and I always respond to their notes.  If I forget to write a question, they ask about it and/or write a note to me!

Making students self sufficient (and classroom management) bonus:  I try to give this type of activity very early in the year to allow students to learn to rely on each other for help.  Several years ago, I heard a teacher say, "Ask 3 before me!" which has become a motto in my classroom.  Students must ask at least three of their classmates before asking me a question.  For today, I made a new flyer, so it's easy to simply point to the sign before students run to me with their questions.  (I'm not the most creative person--you can make it prettier!)
3 before me

After reading a tweet about desk signs and red/yellow/green paint chips (and later the dry-erase bins found by @jreulbach) I recreated a desk tri-fold used by my favorite French teacher.  If a student is stuck on a problem, he may be tempted to sit and hold his hand up (and possibly distract others) until the teacher can respond.  As a gentle reminder, the side opposite of PLEASE HELP says PLEASE KEEP WORKING.  The sign alerts the teacher, but it also reminds the student that he can move on to another problem, keep working, and try something else.  Students can decorate their desk sign and keep it in their notebook to use throughout the year.

Desk Trifold

(By the way, I used "Ray of Sunshine" and "Seven Sixteen" fonts, and I have downloaded more of her fun fonts here.)

And finally, my priority is to make respect central to the cultural of my classroom, and one way I do this is by using common courtesies for everything.  For example, as used above, please and thank you are on all flyers, instructions, and interactions.

I enjoy the partner quizzes because they give students the opportunity to communicate mathematically, but I also love all of the other "lessons" that this activity provides. 

Have a great week!  Good luck with all of the back-to-school happiness!


My Favorite Friday Apps

Happy Friday!  I can't wait to see what is in store for today's learning, and I'm looking forward to all of the Favorites!

For today's Friday favorite, I'm sharing two of my favorite apps of the summer.  With recent bond money, our district has provided iPads to teachers and classrooms (not 1:1 but to use for stations or sharing across departments) so I have spent the summer playing, learning, and searching for apps.

Side-note: next week is our district's Summer Leadership Conference, and schools "volunteered" to make centerpieces for the conference.  Instead of reading Favorite Friday posts this morning, guess who will be working on a centerpiece with the theme, "There's an app for that?" :)

If you are an experienced iPad user, I'm certain you already know about Zite, but it was a fun find for me, and I have used it almost every day this summer.

Zite is a personalized "magazine" creator.  It's free, and it is available for iPhone, iPad, and Android phones.  The program analyzes your Google reader and Twitter feeds and "chooses" topics based on your interests.  You may also select other subjects that interest you, and then the app creates pages of articles based on your topic choices.  Furthermore, you may rate the articles (thumbs up or down) so your magazine becomes more personalized as you rate more articles.  If you want to save the article, you may email it, tweet it, save it to Evernote, etc. Whenever I have a spare moment, I check out Zite and read an article or two, which also leads to new great adds to my Google reader.

My other find is a daily, free app curator, called AppsGoneFree.  Every morning, I receive a notification when "Today's Apps are Now Available," and it's fun wondering what new apps I will discover.

Each day, there are 7-13 free apps, and the categories vary wildly but always include some games.  The reviews include ratings, descriptions, and screen shots, just like iTunes, and a link takes you directly to the App Store.  The description also includes if the app is for the iPhone, iPad, or Universal.  The app is optimized for the iPhone, but I also have it on my iPad so I can easily download new finds in both places.  From this app, I have downloaded educational apps, games, yoga, math-y apps, and I have shared countless apps with friends.  I do not find something every day, but I have downloaded at least one new app a week. And since we will have some iPads in all content areas, it has been fun looking for apps for other teachers, subject areas, and students.

Between my iPad and Twitter and all of these great new blogs, I am even more addicted to technology.  Fun times!

By the way, what are your favorite apps?


Go Ahead, Google Yourself

This past month, I enthusiastically jumped into the online world of Twitter and blogging, and I kept asking myself, why did I wait so long to start participating?  And then I remembered, oh yeah, I've always been worried about the whole privacy issue.  (I didn't even have a Facebook account until last year because I was concerned about the exact same thing.)  As educators, I believe we are held to higher standards, so we must be extremely careful about what we write, share, post, and tweet.  Every time I write something online, I remember that I can "never take it back!" and we have heard the horror stories about teachers' (and others) inappropriate updates or tweets.  This summer, I have been transparent with my online persona, but as the first day of school quickly approaches, I'm now questioning "Am I too open?" or am I being paranoid?  We hear that it is good to have an online presence, but we also need to keep everything in check and in balance.

I saw this post on edgalaxy.com ("Cool Stuff for Nerdy Teachers") and it was another great reminder about being careful and cognizant about what I write and post.   The infographic came from this post on BackgroundCheck.org where you can find additional information about internet safety.

So go ahead and Google yourself (again) and check out the results.  (My surprise was that some my comments on other blogs appeared in search results!)  

What are your thoughts about your online presence?  Stay positive and stay safe!

The Google Yourself Challenge
From: BackgroundCheck.org


Made4Math - Stamp Sheets

Hooray for this week's #Made4Math Monday!  Thanks, as always, to @druinok for organizing our blogs and tweets!

While glancing at Twitter on Sunday morning, I saw the very end of a "How can I use my new stamper?" conversation, and that confirmed what I wanted to post for today.  It takes a village...or in this case, several teachers in my school plus a mathtwitterblogosphere to improve upon an idea, so thanks to many people for shaping my new-and-improved stamp sheet.

Several teachers in our department use weekly stamp sheets (rather than a table of contents in a folder) to help students organize their work.  Students fill in the assignments, teachers check homework/practice daily and give students a stamp, and students turn in the completed paper at the end of the week.  While students work on their warm-up, the teacher walks around the room and looks at their assignment.  The Algebra 2 teacher who used this sheet had two stamps, and different colors represented different point values based on completion of the work.

I decided to try this idea with my ESL students, who really needed help keeping things organized, but I also wanted more space for kids to write and possibly complete warm-ups. Another one of our math teachers created something similar where the front side of her sheet was a table with Monday-Friday warm-ups, and the back side of the page was a table with Monday-Friday exit questions, and she stamped papers after completion of those problems.

Our French teacher shared her great stamp sheet, which I really liked because it also included a place for participation AND a warm-up, so I modeled my last year's sheet after the one below:
Stamp Sheet (Fr)

My stamp sheet from last year would have been just fine...until I saw what other people had created, and I knew I could do something better.  I loved the Bell Work form @mathequalslove created because it gave more space for each day's warm-up.  (And I loved the fonts!)  @mathtastrophe's Smash stamper was a must, plus the forms and templates she and @druinok created looked so great with all of those cute fonts and formatting.

So for my new and improved form, I created this document:
Stamp Sheet

Bonus idea: for the last summary question on the document, the kids respond to the questions:  what are you square with, what are 3 points you want to remember from the week, and what is still circling in your mind?

I downloaded at least 15 new fonts and used "Throw My Hands Up in the Air" for this document.  I found the Smash stamper at Target, plus I found a couple other self-inking stampers and sticky-tabs for fun.  

I created a practice sheet, stamps and all, and my samples are below:

After completing my first stamp sheet, I noticed a couple things.  My font may be too "scripty" for my ESL students, so I may need to go back to something more straight.  In case you're wondering about my vocabulary choices, I teach a newcomer ESL class, comprised mostly of refugees.  (I recently saw another math blog where the author is in the same situation, and now I can't find it!  Any ideas?)  We have a huge population of Burmese refugees, and last year we also started enrolling quite a few students from Nepal and Somalia. Some of the students cannot respond to "What is your name?" and none of them have ever held a TI-84.  The first six weeks is always very interesting, and I can now say hello in at least 12 languages. :)  But English does not look like Karen, Chin, Nepali, or Arabic, so straight fonts and big, printed letters are best!

I also read a sentence on @pamjwilson's post that got me thinking:
Sure you could put a check mark, stamp it, etc. but the sound / click of the hole – punch (or stapler) does something crazy and the students - especially for those who are struggling are motivated to keep on working.  Weird, huh?
She is so right!  Last year, I used the stamper below, and it had a very satisfying sound.  As soon as a student finished the classwork and practice, I stamped his/her paper.  Once I started stamping papers, the kids kept working so hard so they could get their practice stamp before the end of the period.  (I also stamped the participation column at the end of the period.)  If they didn't finish their work, I simply stamped their paper at the beginning of the next period.
Students turn in their completed sheets on Friday, and I check their warm-up and reflections for the week and count stamps for a participation grade.  I can definitely use the Smash stamp, stickers, and flags on their papers that I check outside of class, but during class, I may stick with my old red/blue stampers from Office Depot...just so we can hear those happy sounds!

(ESL side note: when I started using this stamper, it led to a quick conversation about the differences between a noun stamp on an envelope or a rubber stamp, the verb stamp your paper with a stamp, and how to stomp your feet.)

For my students, we mostly fill in the stamp sheet one day at a time.  (We also write in quizzes and tests on appropriate days at the beginning of each week.)  On Monday, their "assignment" will be to turn in their information paper, and they will receive a stamp when I receive their paper.  Their participation stamp will be a freebie, but I hope they will at least verbalize their name.  On Tuesday, their assignment stamp will be checking that their foldable is finished and taped into their notebook.  Their participation stamp will probably be to complete a sentence starter, such as my name is ______, or this is _______ class, or your name is Ms. _______.   Last year, I also used the stamp sheet to get the kids to predict our lesson for the day, i.e. "Monday and Tuesday, we practiced solving equations by add and subtracting.  What do you think we will do today?"   Furthermore, at the beginning of the week, if we filled in a TEST on Friday, I asked them what we would do in class on Thursday.  (Review, of course!)

I am excited about my new stamp sheet, and I am happy to have this routine ready for the beginning of the year.  When I started using this strategy last February, it took a few extra minutes of class, but I thought it was a valuable use of time, helped the kids stay organized with their work, and made me more consistent about including writing and speaking in my ESL class.

What do you stamp in your classroom?  Do you give your students a participation grade?
Thanks for reading!


Cool Classrooms!

Last year, we hosted our first annual "Tour of Classrooms," and since it's time to do some serious thinking about bulletin boards, calendars, sub crates, and absence binders, I thought it would be fun to revisit and share the coolest things we saw in our teachers' classrooms.  (Since I am a floater teacher, I did not get to decorate, but I went on the tour.)   I think some high school teachers get accused of bland classrooms, but not the one below!

The tour served multiple purposes:

  • Teachers were able to "show off" their classrooms.  (And our principal donated office supply gift cards to the winners.)
  • Administrators were able to visit rooms in a completely non-threatening way and recognize teachers in their departments.
  • At the beginning of the week, we gave teachers the rubric for how prizes would be awarded (based on supplies, organization, etc.) so some teachers created new "spaces" in their room for those items, calendars, schedules, word walls...
  • We conducted the tour on the Friday after lunch (school started on Monday) so some teachers said the contest motivated them to be more organized and ready to go on Friday, rather than spending the weekend at school.
  • Our school is large-ish, and I think some teachers rarely leave their own spaces to visit other classrooms.  We sent different administrators to tour different hallways and everyone took pictures, and we compiled all photos into a slide show.  We sent the link to the entire faculty, so everyone had the opportunity to see all of the cool things in all of the classrooms.

The grand prize winning room belonged to an ELA teacher, who is also our girls' basketball coach (thus all of the sports stuff on her board above.)  Find more pictures of her room below.

On the tour, we found...

The math teachers (and a few others) were all about board calendars, and they used duct tape and fun borders to create their agendas.

Loved, loved, loved this make-up work folder, and the teacher left it propped by her "Information" bulletin board.

A science teacher made wordles for each unit of study.

Great classroom and writing rules:
The zebra print belonged to Coach Holly and her winning room!
 Great door signs, especially if you are frequently out of your classroom:

The tennis coach never has trouble with his desks squealing across the floor!

To change the look of your teacher desk, try these tricks:

Need to borrow a pencil?  Please return it to its velcro holder when you leave!

A few creative word walls/vocabulary displays:

And a shoe holder for the calculators!
Japanese class, obviously
For those fortunate enough to have windows...

 And finally, a few other creative walls and bulletin boards:

In an AVID classroom
ELA projects from recent years
Social studies collages

It is so much fun to peek into other classrooms.  Hope you were inspired!  Did you see any ideas that you can duplicate or use for your room?  Happy decorating and organizing!

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