Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tried it Tuesday: Think Through Math!

I am so excited to link up with Holly from 4th Grade Flipper for her weekly linky: Tried it Tuesday!

I always intend on linking up with some grandiose idea, but then Tuesday comes and goes and alas, no blog post. I have a hard time blogging during the week and I am trying the whole "set your blog posts up in advance" thing. I am technically setting this up on Saturday, so I guess I am sticking to my goal!

Anyhow, our Campus Improvement Specialist was introduced to this online math program that is FREE for educators in Texas. It may be available in other states, but I can only speak for Texas. It is intended to get the kids prepared for the STAAR test. I know that is is free for grades 3-8, and Algebra 1 costs money. However, our Algebra kids are using it at the 8th grade math level since right now that have to take not only the End of Course exam AND the 8th grade STAAR test. Gotta love the Federal Government. This is totally NOT the point of this post, so let me get on with it.

I hate introducing things mid-year, because I feel like when January comes around we are finally in a groove and kids FINALLY understand my expectations. I felt like introducing this was going to throw a wrench in everything, but then I thought about this: sometimes during halftime of a football game, the coach has to make some halftime adjustments in order to win the game. That is precisely what I did the first day we arrived back in school. The kids were resistant at first, but I kept at it and I am glad that I did. 

The website that we are using is called Think Through Math (or TTM for short). Basically, the kids are all given a user name and password. They take a placement test to determine what level they should start with. Based on the grade level that is selected for them ahead of time (in my case, everyone got 8th grade math since that is the test they will take). Then, based on the result of the placement test, the students are given lessons to complete in a certain order. Those above level will not have to do some of the more basic lessons like those below level students. It also give the kids a chance to "place-out" of the lesson via a pre-quiz. I think they have to score an 80% or higher on those. If they don't get that, they go through the lesson and take a post-test. They have to get 70% correct in order to "pass" that lesson. 

Now, why would kids enjoy doing this? Because for every lesson completed, you get points, and the kids see who has earned the most points for that week. Who wouldn't want to be on top?? Also, you can set up a class goal. Each of my class periods are set up to receive a pizza party when they have 500,000 points total. The kids can choose to add their points to the classroom goal, or donate to a charity of their choice. For every 10,000 points donated, TTM will donate a certain dollar amount on the kid's behalf. 

Can you tell that I am loving this?? Check it out!

Friday, January 24, 2014

My favorite INB pages so far...

This is just a quick post since I started writing this post back in October and quite frankly having it sit in the drafts is stressing me out!

Moving to 8th grade this year has been awesome. I love the age group, love my school, and most of all I love my staff. My department has been so supportive of all the "changes" I wanted to make to the way 8th grade had been done in the past. The only problem was that I had so many resources for 6th and 7th grade, not so much for 8th grade. I knew I didn't have enough time over the summer to create new resources for my kids and finish the projects that I was already working on. 

I knew that I would need to peruse TPT for some help. I already had some favorite sellers that I could go to and I have to say that the best purchase I made was Lisa Davenport's ultimate foldable bundle. It has over 80 foldables ready to go for 8th grade and algebra 1. I still have to fill in some of my own here and there, but I have some other templates that I have purchased to help me with that. 

Here are just a few pages that I think turned out great. These are "my" pages and not the kids. Since I do most everything on the smart board, I don't always go back and write in the notebook. It's mostly for me to keep up with what page we are on. I know I need to do a better job of this!

Everyone's notebook starts with this page. They read the "rules" and then they sign it. Anytime they ask, "do we have to write this?" I always respond with, "what's rule number 6?" And they usually groan and write down whatever it is that they were protesting in the first place. 

This is the first table of contents page. I have them write the title of the page, the page number, and the date.  It makes it a lot easier when I reference an old page for review or when they have questions. 

This is one of the foldables from Lisa's bundle and it does a great job of illustrating the real number system so that kids understand. I should have taken a picture of the inside. Oops. 

This is one to teach scientific notation. It has four flaps to illustrate the four different types of problems involving scientific notation. We reference this foldable A LOT. 

This is one that I created on a whim because I realized my kids didn't remember from 7th grade about absolute value. I was including it in order of operations so this was a quick 10 minute mini-lesson that I made using 4mulaFun's flippable pack. 

I have been looking for different, fun ways to incorporate vocabulary in my classes this year. I have been trying something different each unit just to keep it fresh. For this unit, every student got an envelope and 10 index cards. We created our own frayer models and the kids loved it. 

And, finally, this was one of the most useful foldables that we have used so far. My kids LOVED evaluating algebraic expressions with square roots. Here's why: I told them we were doing Algebra. There is something about telling kids that we are working on something that is supposedly above their grade level! They eat it up and totally pay attention. Go figure. 

And there ya have it! I do apologize for not having links and is there is something misspelled. I'm on my iPad and it is difficult to edit!

How has your week been?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Ahh, Wednesday!

Yesterday, also known as the day I wrote my third post of the week, I thought about saying something like, "be sure to check back tomorrow for post #4!" But then I felt like I was "committing" to writing a post today and I just can't deal with that kind of pressure. So I deleted that line. 

But, I am sitting in a pedicure chair and all I could think about what I would put in today's post. 

And, as luck would have it, it hit me. 

I am exhausted and it is ONLY Wednesday. Why? Because I have spent two days with my crazy 8th graders on the computer lab. I need a drink, I tell you. A strong one. 

Now, remember, I am not one of those teachers who never uses technology and then those days that are spent in the computer lab you feel like a fish out of the water. No. That is not me. HOWEVER, my kids act like they don't know what double-clicking on something will do when we enter the computer lab. As if they don't know what technology is. It literally blows. my. mind. 

So, I sit here, in my nail salon getting a WELL-DESERVED pedicure because I have been on my feet answering a million questions for the past two days. I'm not sure why this makes it all better, but it does. 

Oh, and I have a team leader meeting tomorrow, and that's kinda like having a day off. Not really, but it is a change of scenery!

And then I'll be back on Friday, and then it will be the weekend and then it's like, "where did this week go??"

How is your week going?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Valentine's Day Task Cards -- FREEBIE!

I don't know what has gotten into me, frankly. I am a blogging machine. Three posts three days in a row! I should probably go take my temperature.

I am so excited that I have my first "seasonal" product in my store! AND...it is free! I wanted to make something that could be used this time of year and I know that in my district, we will have just finished our percents unit in 7th and 8th grade, and this would be a nice little activity. I don't think it would take my kids more than 20-25 minutes to do, and because of the nature of the problems, I would only have to check the last answer!

Each problem builds on the previous answer. This means that the answer from number 1 is used to solve number 2 and so on...In the end, they can only get number 8 correct if they get all other questions correct. Of course, I will check their work as well, but at a quick glance I can see if they were on track or even close!

Valentine's Day Task Cards - Percents and Decimal Operations

Click on the image to grab your very own copy of my Valentine's Day task cards!

Be sure to follow my shop so that you can be notified when I upload more seasonal activities!

Monday, January 13, 2014

A Case of the Mondays...

Two posts two days in a row?? Are pigs flying?? Just kidding...but after my 2 month hiatus from blogging I am super proud of myself that I am getting two blog posts in this week! Since I like to live on the edge, I just might get a third in. Hold on to your hats, people. You just never know what to expect with me.

Today is Monday. I don't know one teacher that loves Mondays. I certainly don't love them more than, say, Saturday. See, I love to wear yoga pants and other pants without buttons. For some reason, that is frowned upon (who made these rules?) at work. I know, right? Just think about how much more productive I would be in yoga pants or even flannel pajama pants. Ahh, one can dream right?

At least in our district they are pushing the college and career readiness stuff and all staff can wear jeans with college shirts on Mondays! That is something to look forward to for sure. But, I wish it could be college themed pajama pants. Because, that is one well put together outfit. Maybe with a collegiate snuggie. I am out of control I tell you. If only I ruled the world!

There, I am in a better mood now. Why? Because it is time to put my PJs on :)

Have a wonderful week!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Secondary Giveaway at Teaching High School Math's Blog!

Hello, and Happy Sunday!

Today is a BIG day in this house. We are big football fans. I mean big. I didn't have a lot to cheer for on the NFL front due to the horrendousness (is that a word??) that was the Houston Texans, but I am a LOYAL fan and I stuck with my team! We did set records--even if it was the longest losing streak in the history of the NFL, and we nailed the #1 draft pick! The hubs is a die hard Chargers fan (he is from San Diego) and we are PUMPED that they are in the playoffs. Phillip Rivers is nice to look at, too, so we will be watching football this afternoon :)

But, this is not a sports blog, so let me get on with this post!

One of my first blogging buddies and TPT friends is having a HUGE giveaway to celebrate one year of blogging! If you aren't following Jennifer at Teaching High School Math, you should be. Go. Do it now.

Being an awesome friend, I donated my popular game, Fraction Fury! It is a great partner game to practice the fraction operations. It is set up kind of like Yahtzee in that the students need to be strategic as to where they would like to get their points each round. My kids LOVED it when I played it with them.

There are also products from MANY other sellers up for grabs in addition to a TPT gift certificate!

Have a wonderful rest of the weekend and a wonderful week :)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Throwdown Thursday--3 days late...

Yes, I have a calendar. I know what day it is. I apparently am busier during winter break than I am during the school year since I have had a post-it on my monitor that says "Throwdown Thursday -- 1/2/14." For those of you who are unaware, a post-it makes the event permanent. Set in stone. As in, I MUST follow through! So, without further ado, I am linking up with Erin from Lovin' Lit for her monthly link-up!

One of the things that I use in my classroom to make learning more interactive is to assign random seats. I know what you are thinking, that is not interactive! But, it can be! The first thing that I do at the beginning of the school year, and then again at the beginning of each semester, is put vinyl stickers on my seats/desks that number the desks 1-30 (or however large my biggest class is!) Then, on the day that I want to switch seats for whatever reason (usually because they have become too comfortable in said seats and need to sit by someone less familiar--please tell me I am not alone...) I will stand at the door and hand each student a card. Or, when I am feeling especially lazy, I will place them in a basket by the door with instructions on the board. And, then there is usually a student who yells at all of the boys who don't pay attention. I teach 8th grade, ya know.

Anyhow, I know you are DYING to know what is on these cards. Big shock--math problems! Each card has a math problem that they need to solve in order to find their seats. They are usually problems that are relative to the content that we are studying at the time. The best part is when two kids try to sit in the same seat, or when someone says their seat isn't there. There is sometimes that one kid who just waits at the back until there is a seat left and sits there. BUT, I always go around and check to make sure they are in the right seats. The first time we do this, it can take 10-15 minutes and in a middle school class of only 50 minutes, that is a good chunk of time. HOWEVER, I think it is time well spent because of the error analysis.

Click the picture to view the product on TPT!

I do have 4 sets of these available in my store individually, as well as in a bundle for 25% off! If you buy the bundle, you will get any future sets of seating cards that I add to it for free just by re-downloading! I would love to know if there are other types of sets you would like to see, so feel free to email me or leave it in the comments. Thanks!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

I certainly cannot believe that it has been two months since my last post! Everytime I thought about blogging, I didn't quite know where to start since I either had nothing to say or I had too much to say and wasn't sure how to organize it. I decided I would start back with the Currently for January as I link up with Farley from Oh Boy 4th Grade!

A lot of this is pretty self-explanatory, but I am so excited that we still have a few more days off from school! We have a full two weeks off, and the kids get an additional two days next week (Monday and Tuesday) while the teachers have professional development days. I always like to have a day or two to get ready for the kids since I am in such a hurry to get out before the break!

We literally packed the car and were on the road to St. Louis to visit my in-laws by 7 PM on the Friday we got out of school. We drove straight through (with the dog) and arrived before lunch on Saturday. Let me explain something to all of you. There is this thing called compromise when you get married. See, in my family, we flew everywhere that it was more than a 4 hour drive. Heck, my mom and I flew to Dallas from Houston several times when my sister lived there just to avoid a 5 hour car ride. But, see, my husband came from a family or drivers. They drive everywhere. The longer, the better.

So, when I wanted to go visit my friend Lauren and her husband, Mike, over spring break this past March, we drove! I had made that drive before with Lauren in college, but it was college, and that was an adventure and I was excited about it. We also drove during daylight back then.

Oh, did I forget to mention, that my husband's family only seems to travel overnight? Like traveling vampires?? I've grown somewhat accustomed to it, as it is much less expensive, especially when we take the dog and don't have to pay for him to stay somewhere.

Where was I? Oh yes. So, we drove to St. Louis. The drive there was fine, but long! As soon as we got to his parents' house, we sat down and booked a hotel room for the trip back so we could stop in Little Rock overnight. Yes. We are just a bunch of world travelers! We should own an RV.

Back to my friend, Lauren. She lives in El Paso, which is 669 miles away from my house. Roughly. And, she is coming tonight!!! I am so excited since the last time I saw her, we had our husbands, and now, it will be girl time!

I will have to setup several blog posts in the coming weeks about what I have been up to...but, until then, have a wonderful rest of your break!