July 25, 2013

Be Kind With Your Speech

 I've been loving all the "Accountable Talk" posters flying around pinterest and teacher pay teachers, so I decided to make my own! 
You know me... I have to make/tweak just about everything I use in my classroom :)

So here they are!
Feel free to download them and use as you like!

Hope you're having a great week!

p.s. I'm sooooo not ready for summer to end!


 Well, I have been out of town for a while and then catching up on some things so I'm a little behind. 

I was nominated for the Liebster Award - twice!

Thanks so much to Amy at middleschoolminions.blogspot.com and Robin at fliplearnshare.blogspot.com.

The Liebster Award is for blogs with less than 200 followers in order to promote that blog, show appreciation, and hopefully draw more followers. So fun!!

To accept the award you have to do a few things:

(1) Link Back to the Person that Nominated You

(2) Answer the Questions from your Nominator
Since I have two nominators, I will answer a random conglomeration of their questions.

 From Amy:
1. What made you interested in blogging?
I kept reading all these great ideas online and felt like I needed to contribute if I kept stealing :) Also, it helps me reflect on my teaching, while gaining great connections and feedback.

2. Share your favorite easy recipe after a work day.
Burgers and onion rings. YUMMMMM!!! It's probably so "easy" because the hubby grills the burgers. Is that cheating? haha :)
4. Where did you graduate from college and why did you pick that school?
The University of Arkansas - WOO PIG SOOIE! I originally said I didn't want to go there because it was fairly close to home, but when they offered to give me a full ride I couldn't say no. I'm so glad I ended up there (met my best friends and hubby!) and cannot image going anywhere else.
5. How do you deal with difficult students and parents?
Patiently. Often times, they just want to feel heard and that their opinions are valued. Don't we all? I try to respectfully listen and then respond with something that makes us seem "on the same team." Once we are working together, everything gets easier. Also, if it's a more drawn-out parent issue, I never deal with it alone. I also try to schedule a face to face conference and include an administrator. 
7. What is your favorite television show?
I have a few... Bones, Castle, Biggest Loser, and So You Think You Can Dance. I love them all for different reasons, but I love them all!
11. How do you feel about grading? Do you grade everything the kids do or do you do participation grades for some of it? How do you grade their notebooks and homework?
Since I follow a type of SBG (at least in my opinion) I emphasize that all work and activities are for learning purposes. The students' whole goal is to demonstrate that they have learned it, either on the test or retest. Homework, notebooks, activities, investigations, etc. is all just to get them there. With that in mind, I sometimes grade for accuracy, sometimes for completion and effort, and sometimes not at all. You can see my post about retesting here and grading notebooks here

From Robin:
1. What was your favorite subject in high school/college?
In high school, definitely math. It was a fun puzzle and I had a fantastic teachers!
In college, math was still great but Anthropology was awesome!!!! Of the four branches, I loved cultural , biological , and paleontology; linguistics not so much.
2. Where is your favorite vacation spot?
Anywhere hot and sunny with a beach/pool. I love lounging by the water with not a care in the world!
I do also love skiing...hmmmmm.... okay, tough call.

4.  Why did you become a teacher?
I really respected my great high school teachers and also really enjoyed math. Math has such a negative stereotype that I wanted to help change that. I've also been told I explain things well, so that helps. :)
5. Do you follow your textbook from start to finish?
We don't have course textbooks, so nope! haha. Our district has been using Mastery Math documents for years that we create. We have some of the top test scores in the state (and nation) so it must be working :) (yes, I'm very proud of my district)

10.  How did you choose the title of your blog?
I didn't think about it a whole lot, probably why it's not very creative. Mrs. Hester's Classroom. Yep, that's exactly what I'm here to talk about.
(3) Share 11 Random Facts About Yourself 
1. I also have a degree in Anthropology, love that stuff! If I could have my dream job, I'd probably be an ethnographer or Egyptologist. Neither of those jobs work too well with a "normal life" though.
2.  I live in the same town I graduated high school from and will be teaching next year at the junior high I attended.
3. My sweet hubby avoided me the first night we were both hanging out with our friends. He says I was so cute he was scared. Awwwwww. He did a good job too, I don't remember him being there!
4. I was my high school's dance team captain. 5-6-7-8.
5. The hubs and I have a pet bunny and a corgi. I love my fur-babies!
6. I'm super short.
7. I love to color and crochet. The hubby teases me that I'm 8 and 80 all at the same time!
8. I look very young. I tell my students that I have two bachelor degrees, one masters degree, and have been married for 4 years, it helps them figure out I'm older than 18.
9. While I say I love the outdoors, I actually don't. I hate bugs. ha!
10. I have two best friends that I met freshman year of college who also became teachers. We still talk all the time, live in the same area, and hang out frequently. I truly have no idea what I'd do without those girls!
11. I desperately wish my hair would grow out super long, but it just doesn't. :( Never.

(4) Nominate Five More Blogs with Less Than 200 Followers

(5) Pose Questions to Your Nominees
 1. What is your favorite thing about your job?
2. What is your morning routine once you arrive at school?
3. How do you decide what to assess?
4. If you weren't a teacher, what would you do?
5. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
6. What is your favorite meal to cook/eat?
7. What is your favorite school supply? You have to choose one!
8.  What is your best tip for new teachers?
9. How do you handle the tardy bell? What is the first thing students do?
10. How many years have you been teaching?

So... there you have it! Thanks again Amy and Robin for this wonderful award!

July 20, 2013

Grading Interactive Notebooks

I've been asked this question quite a few times and keep putting it off. Yep, I've been dodging it entirely... until now.

How I Grade Interactive Notebooks

...drum role please...

There. Secret Spilled.

I have only used math notebooks in my classroom for a year, so it's very possible that my opinion will change, but so far I haven't seen the need to grade them. My students loved them and they were an integral part of our classroom almost daily last year. I never once took a "notebook grade."

I had the expectation that my students keep up with them, and honestly, they loved using them so much that they enjoyed keeping them up to date.

Here are a few ways I quickly checked progress without assigning any point-value grades.
(1) Visual checks as students work. Most of what is in our notebooks took place during class time. I would give students time to complete the activities or set-up pages and walk around to monitor/assist. Students knew we weren't moving on to anything else until all members of our learning team (that's what I call a class) had accomplished the task. They usually stayed on task and worked quickly but thoroughly.

(2) I collected and graded individual assignments from time to time. If there was something specific assigned, I would walk around the room and look at each students' notebook very quickly while they completed a warm up or other independent activity. I carry my grade book with me and usually check mark students who are done correctly and make quick notes about students who need to fix specific things. I mention these things to students and they show me their notebook at a later time after the error has been fixed.

Sometimes students completed small review activities and turned in their notebooks on test day. While they took their tests I quickly checked their assignments. The red hanging system is how students turn in their homework daily, by number order so it's already alphabetized for me. :) It's the little things, right? Anyway... Since they are used to that system they just stick their notebook in their file on test day, I pull it out and grade the assignment (usually a review completion grade), and then put it right back in their numbered pocket. By the time they are done testing, their notebooks are graded. They pick up their notebooks from their pockets before leaving the classroom.
(3) Sometimes I let students use their notebooks on quizzes. This is usually an unannounced thing and they pick up on it very quickly after the first time. They keep their notebooks in order hoping that I'll say "notebooks out!" during the next quiz. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't.
So Why Did I Hide It?
I dunno... I guess I felt kind of guilty. That "everyone else seems to be taking a grade, am I doing this wrong?!" feeling, ya know? But the conclusion I've come to... it works for me! And whatever you decide to do has to work for you. It's your classroom and your students. You're the one that will be living it daily and you have to choose a system that fits you. Don't feel pressured to comply with what everyone else is doing just because they're doing it. Dare to be different, right?! That's what we tell our kiddos!
Ideas for the future:
I have read a few ideas online and seen some pins that I might implement. I plan to keep most of what I mentioned above the same, it worked well for me, I just might add some little things to the mix.
(1) Choose between one and four students each day to look through their notebooks for completion and neatness. This will be for a small grade each time, maybe once per unit. I might try to integrate this into a warm-up rotation schedule I've been pondering. More to come on that later!
(2) Ask students to leave their notebooks in the classroom over a designated night (when they don't need them to complete a homework assignment). Grade about 5 notebooks, chosen at random, and record the grades. Students will be informed the next class period whose notebooks were graded.
(3) Have students take a quiz using another student's notebook. They will then care what their classmates are putting into their notebooks. Kiddos telling other kiddos to keep their notebooks up to date - golden! What would not be so golden is a great student having to use a sub par notebook on a quiz when their notebook is A+ work. Hmmmmm... Not 100% sold on this one yet.
If you choose to collect and grade notebooks, go for it! Just do it because you see value in it and it's a worthwhile endeavor in your classroom, not because you feel like you have to.
So there it is... my method for grading, or not grading rather, interactive notebooks.

July 13, 2013

Properties of Quadratic Graphs

We talked about properties and end behavior of graphs all year long. We started with linear, transitioned to piecewise through distance-time graphs, then absolute value, then exponential, then quadratic. These are the INB pages for our properties of quadratic graphs.

Since we had talked about end behaviors, average rate of change, intercepts, vertices, positive/negative, etc. before, this was a quick extension of ideas to quadratics.

Each student got two identical graphs. Two because all the color-coding info would be jumbled on one graph. We color coded and created our flash cards all first, then taped everything into the notebook.

When students walked into the classroom on this day, our "First Things First" section of the board told them to pick up two pages. One had graphs and the other is the flashcards and envelope. They also picked up scissors and immediately got to cutting everything out. This is something I often do, give students the directions before class officially starts. I begin on day 1 telling students that they are considered tardy to my class if they haven't  begun the First Things First activity before the tardy bell rings. They learn this very quickly and don't waste time once they enter the classroom. I also promise them that I will give them a 2 minute warning at the end of class so they have time to pack up and clean up the classroom, and therefore leave when the ending bell rings.

Anyway... small tangent there. :)

As students were cutting out their flash cards they were telling each other "hey, we know what these mean!" "I know this!" "Mrs. Hester, this looks easy!" I love when they are confident with their learning!!

Once everything was cut out, I asked students where they wanted to start. They knew we had to talk about everything, but might as well let them choose the order! They would call our words that they felt confident in and provide a definition. Classmates would add to the definition and we would talk through specifics. Once I had guided the discussion to a place I was comfortable with, we wrote down the definition. We then switched to a colored pencil, marked that particular feature on a graph, and wrote the specific answer for that definition in the same color on the card.

This provided students with a general definition, as well as a specific color-coded example.
Using the flash cards in an envelope added an element of fun, as well as a way for students for study. They enjoyed pulling them out and quizzing each other.

Got any ideas about how I could make this better? What are your thoughts about this lesson?

July 11, 2013

2013-2014 Grade Book

This is the cover of my 2011-2012 grade book, shown in this post.
This is the cover of my 2012-2013 grade book, shown in this post.

YOU get to help me decide the cover of my 2013-2014 grade book!!

I found an awesome pin on Pinterest today!! ALL of the wonderful digital papers you see pictured below are a FREE download on this site. LOVE IT!!!!! Go check it out!!

So I just had to use the Moroccan Tile papers to create my new grade book cover... but there's so many good ones... oh decisions!

Please help me decide!!!

Please cast your vote below.

Grade Book Cover!
pollcode.com free polls 

July 9, 2013

Pythagorean Thoerem

Pythagorean Theorem... around town!!
 Most of my kiddos were already fairly familiar with Pythagorean Theorem as it is a pre-algebra topic and we were in Algebra 1 class. We did it for a day to make sure everyone was a pro! And because I was doing all CCSS-7, CCSS-8, and CCSS-Alg 1 standards (yikes! remember from here?)
We reviewed some basics, talked about what the theorem was really telling us (equal areas), talked about the theorem's converse, and talked about triples. All of those notes quickly went on the front of the map foldable. You can see those ideas in the picture above.

Then we got to the fun part!
I used google maps to zoom in on an area of town, relatively close to our school, that had some straight-line streets. I used my google maps image to create this for students.
The premise is that AT&T is laying fiber optic lines for its U-Verse service and we're calculating the total amount used by the technician. The map was blank when I gave it to students and we drew in the thick black line as a class to represent where the cable was being laid. I think I will go ahead and include those lines on the document when I give it to students next year. It will speed up the process and no learning will be lost.

This is what the map looked like with just "fiber line" drawn in.

After drawing in our fiber line, I gave students the actual measurements, again from google maps, for a few of the street sections. I didn't give them every piece they thought they wanted, but enough so that all the others could be obtained. Gotta make 'em work for it!

I told students that the technician was starting at the northern most corner so that's where we started. We needed to find six different individual lengths to find the total, so we used six different colors in our notebook. We calculated the first length together to make sure everyone was doing okay. From that point on students wanted to work with their partners so I let them go for it, especially since most knew what they were doing. Students then checked their six individually lengths and total with me before receiving their homework assignment. I was able to make sure everyone was confident that way. I also roamed around the room while they calculated to give tips and encourage.

Overall this activity went very well; I'll definitely be doing it again. Students got invested and practiced Pythagorean theorem multiple times, without just grinding out a worksheet full of problems. YAY!

What are your tips and tricks for Pythagorean? Please share!!!

July 6, 2013

Solving in One Variable

First and foremost... this lesson is not orginally mine!!
Remember when I told you how much I loved this blog? When I was first starting INBs last year, I clung to a few blogs for ideas and tips. Sarah's was definitely one of them! HERE is Sarah's original post of this lesson.

I started with the scales just like she recommended. Your copy is here if you want it.

Students worked for a few minutes individually and then discussed ideas with a partner. Of course #3 and #6 really caused some problems... they don't have a solution! I encouraged students that if they got stuck on any particular problem to skip it and come back. Inevidably #3 and #6 were left til the end!

We discussed all six as a class and wrote the solution types. Our notes looked something like this when we were done.

We talked about one solution, no solution, and infinitely many solutions at this point. This was the first time most of my students had heard these ideas so we talked them through quite a bit. And yes...we wrote them algebraically. At first they moaned and groaned, espeically at the all real numbers, but by the end of the year, after coming back to these ideas repeatedly, they really felt acomplished. They would brag about being able to write things like "real mathematicians." I love math nerds!!! :)

Then we made a foldable, including one of each type of solution set.
**From here on the pictures are tiny. GRRRR. If you click they will enlarge. 

We talked about how the algebraic process of solving relates to the scale. For example, in the equation where the only solution is x=3, when we subtracted 2x from each side the resulting 2x=6 could be seen on the scale where two boxes line up to the 6 box. This really helped students grasp what was happening as they solve equations.

 How have you taught this idea? Got any great foldables or activities to share??

July 4, 2013

Glossary: FREEBIE!!

Multiple people have asked for it, either through email or comments, so here it is!

The glossary template.
Competely free.
Completely editable.

The blank template in here.
My Algebra 1 completely filled version is here. The font is Berlin Sans FB Demi and comes standard on most computers.
Both are in word so you are free to edit as you like. :)

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Short and sweet with pictures! :)

We used this product by Lisa Tilmon to talk about theoretical and experimental probability. Students included the results in their notebooks on page 17.

Students then completed this simulation investigation made by yours truly. Download your copy for free!

They then completed their own simulations for homework on page 18 in their notebook. In case it's hard to read, I printed thin pieces of paper to be taped in so they didn't have to copy anything down, risk missing a key piece, or waste valuable class time.

The paper says: (1) Describe a real-life event that you are curious about. (2) Create a simulation to model that event. (3) Perform your simulation 15 times and record the data in a table. (4) Describe what your data tells you about your real-life event.

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