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!


The Power of YET!

How about a favorite word for one of my favorite things?  Does that count?  My new favorite word is...


Why?  And how does it apply to my classroom, teaching, and learning?

Last fall, in conjunction with our district's initiative of differentiation, several of us started studying and reflecting on Carol Dweck's mindset.  (I think we're a bit late on the mindset bandwagon, but at least we have started the conversation!)  During professional development, we introduced our faculty to the ideas of growth vs. fixed mindsets, several of us read her book Mindset: the New Psychology of Success, we created failure walls in our classrooms, we talked to our students about ways to overcome a fixed mindset (especially in math!) and our principal took our entire Instructional Leadership Team to see Dr. Dweck when she had a speaking engagement in town.

At Dr. Dweck's talk, she mentioned the "Power of Yet," and that was a light-bulb moment for me, and I immediately shared this concept with my students and our faculty. 

  • Student: I don't understand that example.  Me:  YET.  But let's try the the next one together to find your missing step.
  • Student: I don't know why I missed that question on the quiz.  Me:  YET.  Please ask your partner to help you work through it again since he answered it correctly.
  • Student: I don't get how to ____________  (fill in the blank with any appropriate topic).  Me: YET.  What can we do to help you understand?
  • Student: I don't have my problems finished...YET.  But I promise I'll get them to you first thing tomorrow.
  • Teacher: I don't think that instructional strategy will work for me.  Me: YET.  But let's change this one little piece to help it become a better fit for your teaching style and students.  Are you willing to try it now?
  • Me: I haven't started on the calendar or syllabus for either class.  My brain:  YET.  But you still have a little time and you know you'll have it ready for the first day of school.
  • Me: Once school gets into full swing, I don't know how I'll be able to keep up with the whole blog/twitter universe.  My brain:  YET.  You've already learned so much in the past few weeks, and people seem so willing to share.  You'll figure out how to make it work.
In my classroom, YET became a common phrase, and a few of my students even responded to a blog post about the power of yet in academics and sports.

I don't know if Carol Dweck coined the phrase "the power of YET," but after a quick Google search, it looks like the business world is all about YET, and I found these blogs in a long string of posts and videos:

Richard Bravo's blog: Positive Expectancy: the power of "yet"
Create What Matters Most: The Power of "Yet!" - Shift Focus, Create Results
Creative Life Changes: The Power of Yet

I am now all about this tiny word YET and its power.  I know it's not as fun to say as multiplicative, but it has become my favorite word.  Do you see its power, too?

Happy Friday!



Made4Math - Graffiti Boards

I have had so much fun finding new blogs, looking at classroom and project pictures, and reflecting on all of the contributions for #made4math!  I am so fortunate that I stumbled into this amazing community of math teachers and bloggers.

Today's idea is an easy strategy that can be implemented on day #1: using a "Graffiti Board" in your classroom.  (I am a floater teacher and share board space in my classrooms, so my personal examples are not Pinterest-worthy; however, I have included one example of a semi-permanent board, and I'm certain there is a lot of creative potential.)  

This strategy came from a differentiation institute, and the session presenter suggested graffiti boards for two purposes: assessment and building class culture.  I have tried this tool for a few months, and I have used boards for both purposes, and it is a strategy that I will implement next year.  (And my HS students seemed to respond well, or at least they enjoyed writing on the board!)

Making your own graffiti board is as easy as 1, 2, 3.
  1. Write any question (or word, thought, quote, etc.) on your board before class begins.
  2. Get students to respond (as they enter or leave the room, or at another designated time).
  3. Comment or somehow use the results.
Graffiti Boards as a Quick Assessment
My first graffiti board was a pre-assessment, and I asked my students what they remembered about logarithms.  I wrote the question on the board before class, and hoped students would respond.  Obviously, only a few did, so I needed to work on step #2.   (Resolved: I left more markers out, and as students entered, I simply asked them to answer the question on the board.  After a few mornings of "graffiti time," most kids entered the class hoping to be able to write on the board.)

The second board is an example from the middle of a unit.  Several of my boards asked, "How are you feeling about ______?" which also led to conversations about problem solving, confidence, study skills, and growth mindset.  (From the board results, I allowed AM to move on to the next lesson, I talked to the "1's" individually about tutoring, and I changed the pacing of the lesson a bit.)  

After using a number-line graffiti board every week or so, we even created another type of language in our class. "Work with your partner until you both feel closer to a 4," or "Ms. L, I'm feeling about a 2 on solving log equations, so when are you available for tutoring?"

One of our chemistry teachers created a much prettier example of a graffiti board to use with a week-long project.  Each of her students made a "marker" using a popsicle stick with a magnet glued to the back and his name written on the front of the stick.  As the project evolved and as students uncovered research, they moved their names along the scale to answer the posted question.  ("In order to combat dependence on fossil fuels, the US should build more nuclear fission reactors."  Do you agree, disagree, or are neutral?)  I loved that she was able to create a single, permanent board for 4 of her class periods, and it was great to see her board change after each day of research.

Graffiti Boards to Encourage Participation
The other use of graffiti boards is to encourage participation, create a positive classroom culture, and build rapport.  At the differentiation institute, I learned if students write or speak at the very beginning of class, they are more likely to participate throughout the class. 

I started my class blog in February, and I offered the first post as a tiny extra credit--just to see how the commenting worked, who would participate, how did we like the idea of blogging, etc.  I used a graffiti board to remind the kids about this bonus opportunity and to see if they were willing to comment on our class blog.  (Results: yes, I would write another blog entry, and I would expect many student comments for the first post.)

On occasion, I asked a non-math question on the graffiti board, just to get everyone to write something as they entered the room.  The questions were usually silly so I don't have pictures, but I would write the question and students wrote their answers all over the board.  Example questions are as follows:
  • Who's your favorite character on Glee?  
  • Before the release of Hunger Games: would you rather live in District 12 or live in the Capitol? 
  • What are you looking forward to this summer?
  • To ask the first week of school: what is the best part about starting a new school year?
I would always share my answer, we would discuss the question for 1-2 minutes, and students found similarities in the responses, which helped build class relationships.  The kids loved the "Would you rather...?" questions and wanted that type of board more than any other. :)

Other Ideas
Graffiti Boards in a Flipped Class
An idea for a teacher who flips his class is to write a problem on the board that relates to the previous night's video, and ask students to rank their understanding of the problem AND sit at a table corresponding to that number.  For example, students who are completely lost (or who didn't watch the assigned video) would be "1's" and sit at table #1.  As the teacher works the groups, he knows whether to provide a lesson intervention or an enrichment, simply based on their table number.

Graffiti Boards in Staff Development
In a small group meeting, we used the board below to assess our knowledge about mindset.  "Growth Mindset" was written in the middle of the board, and we all went to the board and wrote our definition or ideas about the main topic.

Student Responses and Technology Thoughts
Last year, we allowed students to use their cell phones for instructional purposes, so I tried Poll Everywhere and GoSoapBox (when it was free).  Our district is now moving to BYOD, so this summer, I have been playing with Socrative and Wiffiti (especially now that I am working on tweeting) and we have several sets of "clickers" floating around the school.  I definitely love the idea of using technology to help assess my students, but for the quickest, easiest, last-minute set-up, nothing beats a graffiti board--writing a question on the board and asking students to respond.

Would a graffiti board work your classroom?  I would love any suggestions or examples of how you have used the boards in your room!


Made4Math - Mathography

Like several others, I was inspired by #made4math, so I started this blog as a place to share.  It didn't take me long to decide on the first thing to share, and I hope others will be able to adapt and use this assignment.

I always tell my students that if I didn't teach math, I would teach English because I love to read, and I try to find as many opportunities as possible to get them to write.  On the first day of school, instead of completing a getting to know you form, I ask my students to complete a "Mathography," which is an autobiography with some math questions thrown in for fun.

For (at least) the past 15 years I have given this "essay" to every one of my math students (8th grade through AP Calculus) and I couldn't ask for a better first day of school assignment.   The students are not too happy about such an assignment on the first day of school, but their papers are always honest, revealing, and oh-so-insightful, and I read their essays several times throughout the year.

I change the questions a bit each year, depending on the course, but I have included most of my past prompts, and I usually ask 5-6 questions each year.  When I have repeater students (when I have taught Algebra 2 one year and Pre-Calculus the next year, for example) I change the questions quite a bit to reflect already knowing some of the kids' background information.  When I teach seniors, I add a few more questions about future plans, colleges, etc., and I can use their essays when I write recommendation letters.

The students are (almost) always so positive and excited during the first week of school, and they all have great goals.  After reading their papers, I know all of the "getting to know you" information, plus the students reveal how they feel about school and math in general.  They often give me personal information as well, such as family information (dealing with illness, divorce, death) or personal struggles.  For the question "Is there anything else I should know about you?" I give these examples: one student wrote she always forgot her glasses so she needed to sit in front, and another wrote her best friend was in the class and they talk too much, so please don't seat them next to each other.  (Sage advice from a teen, right?)

One new addition for this year will be for my juniors to comment with a sentence or two to our class blog.  I'm still tweaking the post, but I envision the post as an introduction to me, our class, our class culture and expectations.


For my ESL students, I provide a fill-in-the-blank version.  For the past several years, I have taught a "newcomer" class, and most of my students are refugees.  If a student cannot answer any of the questions on the first page, I know to immediately begin as many interventions as possible!
ESL intro

I "stole" the Mathography idea from Julie H., one of my first math department chairs.  (She posted the papers outside of her classroom, but I treat them as confidential documents.)  I have also seen something similar in one of the AVID "Write-Path" books.  Could this assignment work for you?  Any suggestions?  I hope you'll be able to incorporate at least parts of a Mathography in your classroom--it is such a great way to get to know your students. Enjoy!

Online Resources...In the Beginning

Oh, where to start?  The primary purpose of this blog is to organize, sort, and share all of the wonderful resources I have found all over the web.  Since our school is starting our new adventure of BYOD and more technology, what will work best for our faculty and students?   (And I bet I will also throw in information about mindset, differentiation, leadership, PLC's, and best teaching practices.)

My beginning with technology started with a wiki.  Several years ago, a few people who were completing the online graduate school program asked me to participate in their class wikipage.  (Luckily, there was a Common Craft video explaining what a wiki was!  If you need a hint, see the video below.)

From that moment, I was determined to find technology that I could use effectively and appropriately in my classroom.  I spent a considerable amount of time that summer reading my first blogs, organizing technology ideas, and researching class projects.

In 2008, I created my first "technology" project for my regular pre-calculus class, which was to upload a picture to a wikipage.   (Students took a picture and drew the basic graph they saw within the picture.  See their results here.)

I have accumulated so much information over the last few years, and I organized some of my findings during several math staff developments during 2011-12.  For the presentations, I returned to what I knew best and created this wikipage as a place for my links, handouts, and project ideas.

During the summer of 2012, I have been encouraging our Instructional Leadership Team to participate in a book discussion via a wiki, but we're having a few growing pains there...but I'm still hopeful!  (Growth mindset, right?)

Ideas for you and your classroom...
  • Don't become overwhelmed with everything that is available!  Find something that will fit your class, your personality, and your teaching style.  Don't force a project, a website, or some technology just for the sake of using technology.  Choose one thing and try to make it work just for you.  If something looks or sounds even the tiniest bit interesting, or if you have a little idea but don't know what to do next, check with your friendly IS's!  (You can do it!  We can help!)
  • Wikis or blogs are a great place to start.  They are easy to set-up and they are free.  They allow for higher levels of thinking, and they are a forum for students (or teachers) to contribute, respond, upload, and discuss.  Check ERO for the staff development on blogging in the classroom...that's how I got started on the blogging adventure!
  • Find an education blog or two that you enjoy, and read it regularly.  (See my links on the right if you need a place to start.)  There are so many amazing teachers around, and I know you will be able to find something that will help you learn and grow as an educator.

Thanks for stopping by this blog!  I'm excited about my new phase of learning and sharing.


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