Classroom Tour

This is my second year at this school and I think I’m only one of 3 math teachers (out of 20) to have kept my classroom from last year to this. Several of our math teachers were also moved into “outdoor classrooms” (i.e. trailers) and have been incredibly patient in dealing with a variety of adverse circumstances. That is to say that I do feel very grateful to have this space even though there are things that I would change if the world was at my fingertips. IMG_20170929_152136First up, the beginnings of my Geometry word wall. These posters were made by the Virginia DOE ( I’m still thinking about how to incorporate the cards more into my teaching and review, but for now, its a word wall.


These designs made up of geometric constructions are a project that I have done the past few years and they make great classroom decorations. This is also where I post schedules and reminders. The blue and pink sheets are running point totals for my two geometry support classes. Students earn points as they participate in different games and activities in class.


I first made the teams poster at my previous school. I think it is directly from CPM. I do not do as much teamwork in my current school, but I still like the reminders. Also, for the first time this year, I am experimenting with student folders for two of my classes – in the two blue crates. Organization was a struggle for some students last year and so they can use their folder for in-class storage. I also use their folders to pass back papers, which does save class time.


Regardless of the variety of activities that we may do in class, the front of my classroom is the default focal point. Some things that I have incorporated into the front:

  • Growth mindset posters from Math Equals Love ( I LOVE when students reference these in our discussions!
  • My classroom expectations fall into 2 categories: Be responsible and be respectful. On the first day, students brainstormed individually and with a group about what specific behaviors fall into those 2 categories. I have posted the compiled lists from all of my classes.
  • I also have a velcro Sudoku board that I made. Students add to it before and after class. The teacher who uses my room during my planning said that his kids also like participating. The only downside is that it is easy to mess up (as it currently is).

Some day I’m hoping to branch my blogging beyond the #SundayFunday blogging prompts, but for now, I’m just trying to hold on! I look forward to seeing other people’s classrooms soon!


I love organizing!

In my younger years, I thought that being a “professional organizer” would be a great career. Through my schooling, I had a hard time working on my homework unless my things were all put away. I have definitely become less particular as I have gotten older, but I still love a good organizational system.

Here are some systems that work for me:

  • Student work: I have one basket in my classroom where students turn papers in. I do not accept papers that are handed to me. They must be put in the basket. Depending on the day, I empty the basket either at the end of the block or at the end of the day. Papers then, go straight into my expandable file where they are organized by block. I also keep all of my answer keys in the expandable file. Student work stays until the expandable file until I grade it and then I keep it in file folders per class until I pass it back. (I keep up with my grading pretty well, but struggle to pass back papers in a timely manner).
  • Papers for planning: I keep a folder on my desk for each class. As we go through a unit, I put any originals, notes, etc. into the folder. At the end of the chapter, I empty the folder and move those papers to a section in my filing cabinet. I then reference my filing cabinet as needed when planning in the future, though I usually only use it when I can’t find something in my Google Docs. I do also try to keep any card sorts or any other cut apart paper activities in the appropriate chapter’s hanging folder.
  • Other miscellaneous papers: If it something that I will want to reference in a meeting or at some other point throughout the year (like a calendar, pacing guide, etc.), it goes into a binder that I keep on my desk. If it something that I really should keep, but probably won’t ever look at, it goes into my filing cabinet. I try really hard not to keep paper on my desk.
  • CaptureOrganizing Internet Links: On Twitter this summer, I read about someone who used Google Keep to organize links (I’m sorry, I don’t remember who). My husband and I have used Google Keep in the past to share lists with each other, but I didn’t know about the labeling functionality. I absolutely love it! I have made labels in order to organize the links that I pulled from my Twitter and Feedly over the summer, but I’m sure that I will add to them as the year goes on.
  • Student organization: When cleaning my room at the end of the year, I found 2 different places in my classroom where students had been stashing their work that I told them not to lose. With that in mind and my general frustration with students losing important handouts and notes, I am going to try crates with student folders for the first time. There are students who have functioning organizational systems of their own and I’m not going to force them to fit into my box (literally), but I hope that many of my students can benefit.


I’m in awe of all of the Tupperware that I’ve seen in some posts already and look forward to reading more of your organizational posts!






















My 26th First Day of School (?!)

I do not remember all of my first days of school, but from pre-school upwards, anticipating the first day of school has always brought feelings of excitement, nervousness, and regret for the end of my summer. For the past 8 years, I have also spent (too much) time planning what I can do on that first day of school to start the year off on just the right note. As I see it, activities on the first day of school could be split into 4 categories: getting to know each other, setting academic expectations, setting behavioral expectations, and getting into the math. When my first day lessons needed to fit into only about 40 minutes, I mostly focused on getting to know each other and setting behavioral expectations, but now that I’ve got up to 90 minutes, I’ve worked on how I can incorporate more math on that first day.

At this point, I’m not sure how all of these pieces will come together yet, but here are some activities that I may include on the first day of school this year.

  1. “About Me” Equations – This activity gives students a little bit of algebra review while also letting them get to know me a little bit. Its also helpful as a glimpse into students’ mathematical background on the first day. (I have done this for several years now and don’t remember where I got this idea.)
  2. Name Tents from Sara VanDerWerf – I’ll have them write their name on one side and then an “about me” equation on the other.
  3. Classroom Expectations – My classroom expectations are that they will be responsible, be respectful and be prepared. In the past, I have done a variety of combinations of individual, partner, small group, and class brainstorming to answer the question “What does it look like to be responsible/respectful/prepared?” I make a compiled list from all of my classes that I post in my classroom. I’m still considering what that brainstorming time will look like for this year (and will also most likely depend on my class sizes).
  4. Our Geometry team has made the decision to start the year off with and use constructions more consistently throughout the year as a teaching tool. I’m thinking on the first day of school that I want them just to get comfortable with the physical act of using a compass. After they have played for a little bit with the compass, I’m going to give them the choice of creating a design of their own choosing or writing their name with only a compass (I haven’t gotten to try this idea out yet, so I’m not sure if that will really work).
  5. I’ve also used these visualization exercises in the past and they do definitely get students thinking geometrically, but for some, the frustration level was a little bit too high. I may use these on the first day of my Geometry Lab (a support class for students who are enrolled in one of my regular Geometry sections), which is smaller and enables me to give more individual/small group attention.
  6. My curiosity was piqued on the Geometry MTBoS forum about first day plans by David Griswold’s description of an activity that leads to writing a definition of a sandwich. I’m still thinking about how I may want to incorporate this.

Obviously this list is a bit too extensive at this point, but I would much rather need to pare it down either as I continue to plan or in the moment rather than be under planned for the first day.


I am continuing to very slowly jump onto the blogging train and an upcoming school year is always a good way to try to get myself into new habits. Over the past several years, I have thought a lot about the ways that schools and districts do corporate professional development and contrasting that against what I seek as an individual for professional development. I have found the MTBoS to be a great resource for my individual needs. I tend to pop in and out around the edges, but have been hesitant to dive in. The recent conversations about #MTBoS versus #iteachmath and #PushSend have been encouraging to me to just put my voice out there and even if no one reads it that the process of reflection for yourself can create the value.

Professional Development Goals:

  1. Actually read the books that are on my bookshelf, including 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions, Good Questions: Great Ways to Differentiate Mathematics Instruction, and How Children Succeed.
  2. Participate in whatever form #geomchat ends up taking. I already posted once in the forum and was excited to read others ideas for the first week of school!
  3. As Geometry team lead, encourage my fellow Geometry teachers to expand their own thinking whether that is through books, Twitter, blogs, etc.

Classroom Teaching Goals:

  1. The AVID conference this summer really encouraged me to think about notes differently. Previously, I would have classified notes as something almost to be avoided, I think largely because giving notes just felt like I was failing to provide students with a more meaningful learning experience. After AVID, my perspective is more that notes are a necessary resource for students, but where my feelings of failure come in is that notes should not generally be the way that students are coming in contact with new material. My goal is to change some of my own perceptions about note-taking, specifically focusing on 1) the timing of the notes, both in terms of length and relationship to new content and 2) help students to know how to use notes as more of a learning resource rather than something that we write down and then lose.
  2. I would like to improve my parent communication. I genuinely do not mind communicating with parents, but I do dislike talking on the phone. I am still thinking about how I can open up those lines of communication without sticking myself with 10 phone calls every night.
  3. The way that I did test corrections last year seemed to discourage students rather than encourage. I want students to learn from their mistakes and truly consider how to become a more active learner, rather than checking a box off for a grade. I have some ideas, but will certainly be thinking about this and discussing this with my Geometry team in the next couple of weeks. (Or maybe on the #geomchat forum?)

I have found that these two areas come together on the MTBoS, both in encouraging me to consider the bigger picture ideas that make up our thoughts as teachers, but also the nitty-gritty details that make up our daily lessons. I look forward to seeing how I can continue to be part of the MTBoS.

My Favorites

I toyed with the idea of starting a blog before. In fact, several years ago, I went so far as to pick out a name and write my first post. Within minutes of publishing, I promptly deleted it. In the past year, I made some changes in my professional goals. I decided to leave the private school that I loved teaching at in order to expand my teaching experience at a much larger public school. As part of that transition, I was seeking professional support when I discovered the MTBoS. While I have primarily stuck to reading posts on Twitter and a variety of blogs, I have often considered what I might have to contribute. It is intimidating to consider what I do that may be unique or worth sharing in any way, but when I read about the MTBoS 2017 Blogging Initiative, I thought, “Why not? Let’s go for it!”

My favorite thing over this past week was an activity that I planned in order to address an area of weakness that another colleague was frustrated with. He was working with students on sketching angle bisectors, perpendicular bisectors, medians, and altitudes within triangles and his students were having a hard time picturing reasonable answers. I was trying to brainstorm ways that students could visually check their answers and the idea of using plastic transparency sheets came to me. So I made up a template of 8 different triangles and gave students directions of which segments to draw (i.e. draw an angle bisector from angle A to segment BC, etc.). When they were done, they got a transparency answer key. They lined up the triangles and were able to see very clearly how close their segments were to mine. I was pleased that I was able to find a way to use transparencies in a different way (since I have never had a classroom with an actual overhead projector) and address a colleague’s concern. He tried it and loved it too!

So this week I got a new favorite idea and I will have to see where else I could try to use it.