Friday, September 9, 2016

I Made It Through the First Week!

Wow, the title of this post makes it sound like my first week was extremely long and difficult.  It was not; it was actually the total opposite - I had a terrific first week!  I love my new schedule and my new students.  Actually my students are not all new to me - I've had about half of them for the past two years of summer school.

First I thought I would share a few pictures of some new things in my classroom this year, courtesy of Sarah Carter - if you haven't read her blog yet you really should - she's an amazing, creative teacher.

So I started out the first day, Tuesday, by going over my classroom procedures and expectations, but to kill two birds wth one stone, I created a Nearpod presentation so my students could not only learn about my routines, but so they also could learn how to use an application that I use quite often throughout the school year.

The next day, Wednesday, I had them get familiar with a couple of other activities that I use on a regular basis, QR code scavenger hunts and Socrative.  I set up a super easy QR code scavenger hunt where the problems were just multiplication facts, just so they could get the hang of how scavenger hunts work.  In the past, students thought they could just go to random problems or just work their way around the room without using the answers as clues as to where to go next.  Hopefully this will prevent that mistake the next time we do a QR code scavenger hunt for real.  The Socrative activity was another super easy set of questions just so they could see how to get into my "class", what the different types of questions looked like, and to see the feedback they get after they answer the question.  (I also do a lot of "Space Races", but I'll save that for another day.)

We finished up with everyone joining my Google Classroom and completing the first assignment which was an "All About Me" Google Slides - I gave everyone their own copy which had 10 slides of questions to help me get to know them.  They had a lot of fun with this one and some students got really creative with the images they chose to go along with their answers.  My homework this weekend is to read through all of them!

Thursday was probably not their favorite day because I gave them a pre-assessment.  I wanted to find out if they have the prerequisite skills that I feel they should have in order to be able to start learning the 8th grade curriculum, such as their basic multiplication facts, integer operations, exponents, one- and two-step equations, and basic graphing skills like plotting points and naming coordinates on a coordinate plane.  I haven't finished grading them all yet, but from what I've seen, I have my work cut out for me this year!

When they had completed the pre-assessment, I had them create bookmarks for all the applications we will be using throughout the year to avoid the 5-minutes or so spent searching for the applications each time we use them.  I also taught them how to shorten the bookmark so that it's just the icon without words so they can fit more on their bookmark bar, and how to make a folder on their bookmark bar for all the math applications.

I think they probably liked today, Friday, the best.  I started out class with a presentation about growth mindsets which consisted of 6 short video clips. I had been telling them all week about how mistakes are OK, mistakes make your brain grow, mistakes show that you are trying and learning, etc.  The first video was Jo Boaler explaining the scientific research about this so they didn't just think I was making it all up.  Then I had a few cutesy cartoony videos about growth mindset.

The video I felt was the best was basically an analogy between brain growth and building a rope bridge across a really high ravine.  The first time across was really difficult (just like learning a new concept), they made some mistakes along the way (one man slips as he's walking on the rope), but the more times they crossed the ravine the easier it became (they showed the two men adding more and more ropes to the bridge they were building which I related to the brain cells being connected), and then after many times across they finally had a solid foundation (they had added wood planks to walk on).  I watched my students as they watched the video and everyone was really engaged in it.

The last two videos had everyone laughing.  One was about learned helplessness - two people were on an escalator and it stops moving.  They both freak out and get frustrated that this has happened when they're obviously trying to get somewhere important (they're both dressed up in business suits).  They call out for help and look for a cell phone to call for help.  A repair man finally arrives and his escalator also breaks down.  We discussed how if this had been an elevator, their reactions would have made sense, but because it was an escalator they could have easily just walked up the rest of the way, but the thought never crossed their minds because they're so used to the escalator doing all the work for them and they aren't doing any thinking for themselves.  The solution to their problem is so obvious but they're just not looking for it.  One of my new slogans came from this video - "Get off the escalator!" - I think I'm going to make a sign to hang up in my classroom that says this.  Anytime I see one of my students saying they don't understand something before they've even attempted the problem, I'll just say "Get off the escalator!" to them.

The final video was about determination and perseverance.  A dog hears the toaster oven 'ding' and cleverly pushes a chair up to the counter, climbs up onto the counter, opens the toaster oven, and pushed the tray with the food out onto the floor so he can eat it.  I used this to discuss how they also should be determined to learn new concepts and persevere instead of giving up.  So my slogan from this video is now "Be the dog!"

After the videos, I had my classes do the 1-100 group work activity that I got from Sara VanDerWerf's blog.  The kids loved this and were so excited to try to beat their scores and beat the other teams.  I loved watching them working so well together.  After we finished the three rounds (by the way, only one team figured out the secret that the position of the numbers went around the paper from one quadrant to the next), we discussed "What good group work looks like" (also from Sara VanDerWerf) and I pointed out the things I had seen while they were working. When we got to number 2 ("They don't get distracted. They don't notice what other groups or the teacher is doing."), I told them I could have been doing a little jig in the back of the room and no one would have noticed.  I only hope the group work the rest of the year looks as good as today's did.

One final thing I almost forgot to mention was the new Do Now routines I've started this year.  I want to help my students develop better number sense, and I found a great list of math routines.  The one I tried this week was the "Number of the Day".  The first time I gave them the number and asked them to write 3 different expressions, each with a different operation.  The next day I stepped up the challenge and asked them for 3 different expressions, each with 2 different operations, and none of the expressions can use the number 1 (I found the first day students were making this way to easy by just adding, subtracting, multiplying or dividing by 1 - I wanted them to think of more challenging ways to write the expressions).  There were a few students who just couldn't come up with an expression with 2 different operations, so I told them it was OK to just use one operation - we're going to work on this.  Then there was one student who made my day today - her expressions showed she was thinking outside the box - she was the only one who included parenthesis, exponents, and negatives!  She really impressed me!

All in all, I had a great first week of school!  This is my 7th year teaching and it was the first opening day that I didn't have the customary opening day butterflies!  I'm really looking forward to working with my new students this year.


  1. Great post! The videos that were used are so practical and can lead to some amazing conversations. I'm going to be using a few next week.

  2. Thank you for so many ideas! Can you post the questions you used for the All about me Google slides? Thank you!

    1. Hi Kristen,

      Here's the link to the Slides template I gave my students. I told them to be creative and change the theme, fonts, colors, add images to go along with each slide, etc to personalize it. Enjoy!