Calling all NEW Middle School and High School Math Teachers!!! I have very important advice for you…the best advice I’m ever going to share…ready for it?!
YOU CANNOT DO ALL THE THINGS!!!
Yes, it’s in caps because I am shouting it!
I remember when I was a first-year teacher and I thought I was going to be the best teacher by creating amazing activities, make every lesson “fun”, get to know each student’s strengths and weaknesses to differentiate for each one, integrate real world projects in every unit of study, follow all the new education trends, etc. I learned pretty quickly that there are only so many hours in a day, and even though I’m a high energy person…I am just one person, and I definitely set my expectations way too high. Quite frankly, even veteran teachers can’t do all the things.
I’m not saying throw in the towel for trying to do all the things. What I’m saying is, YOU can’t do all the things yourself, nor all at one time.
NOT ALL THE THINGS:
NOT ALL AT ONE TIME:
If you are one of those teachers, like myself, that teaches several different grade levels, pick one grade level each year you REALLY want to focus on and improve it. Then, the next year, pick a different grade level. I set up a review cycle of content and implementation goals each year by grade level. It looks something like this:
MORAL OF THIS STORY:
I’m basically saying this…YOU don’t have to know or do everything yourself, and you absolutely cannot implement it all at one time. Learn from those of us that have been around awhile, and definitely don’t re-invent the wheel. So many amazing ideas and activities are at your finger tips, thanks to the internet. And don't forget to come up with a system for improvements year after year, like my review cycle idea. A little at a time, done well, goes a long way!
So, where can you start?
FUN ACTIVITIES – get started by using activities from my FREE resource library and my TpT store by clicking on the images below. You can also use our best friends, Google Search and Pinterest to find activities based on each math concept.
REAL WORLD PROJECTS & MINI-LESSONS – Desmos Classroom Activities & you can find more in-depth projects in my store.
INSTRUCTIONAL VIDEOS – I’ve created a few instructional videos and have several YouTube channels that I love to use with my students. Click on the images below.
LEARN FROM OTHERS
You can find several tips on my BLOG. I’ve also asked some of my math friends to share their best tips…so here they are:
I want to preface this post with the fact that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all strategy for how to conduct parent-teacher conferences. There are MANY ideas and methodologies that have been used by all levels of teachers. It is important to choose the best method that works for YOU.
I’d like to share a strategy that worked for me and can be used to help you set up your parent-teacher conferences. I have included two FREE templates for you to use to prepare for parent-teacher conferences.
Begin by using the SET IT UP template to decide WHAT you want to achieve during the conference and HOW you want to achieve it. This handout can be used digitally by typing in your content or if you are a paper/pencil person, you can print and complete it that way.
CREATE A GOAL
Decide the important topics you want to share and/or discuss during the conference. Let’s face it, you simply cannot cover everything you want to during the conference. My conferences were always set for 15 minutes, so I had to pick and choose 3-5 areas I wanted to discuss to give the parent/guardian a good picture of their child’s progress.
CHOOSE A METHOD
I find having some kind of form filled out prior to the conference helps keep the meeting focused. I prefer a RUBRIC in which I fill out for each student that includes the level of understanding for the units of study for the semester, work ethic, attitude towards learning, and attention. This has been by far the best thing I’ve done for having successful parent-teacher conferences!
I usually print the rubric and highlight each area, so parents/students can leave with a hard copy. But, you can also share each rubric with them virtually by sharing your screen and/or via email. Click on the image for an editable version of this rubric.
I used to only meet with the parent/guardian, but one year I changed it so that the student had the option to attend. I found that students enjoyed hearing about their progress and the good things they were doing in class. It was also helpful for them to be part of the honest conversation on areas they could improve. I truly think who attends varies on each teacher’s situation, so again, do what is best for YOU.
EXECUTE YOUR PLAN
What needs to be prepared in advance? For me, I filled out a rubric for each student and made a checklist of appointments to keep the meetings efficient and on time. During the conference, I explain each area of the rubric and give a few examples. Parents were also happy to walk away with something they could reflect on with their child.
I am the type of person that always wants to improve! I am constantly analyzing lessons, projects, activities, etc., so of course I want to reflect on how I set up and execute my conferences to make them even better the next time.
Using the SET IT UP document helps me plan for conferences each year and having a RUBRIC I can edit for each quarter/semester helps me make the necessary adjustments for each conference.
Here are some other strategies my fellow mathtastic friends have used with their students:
by Math Giraffe
Work together as a team to prepare for each conference. Students do self-evaluations that they present to parents alongside the teaching team's evaluation.
Homeroom teachers act as representatives of the entire teaching team, while students take accountability and share input about any discrepancies / similarities between the two forms.
(free download included)
We hope you find these
parent-conference strategies helpful!
In this post I will be using the term learning targets, also known as objectives, benchmarks, indicators, and standards. Each school uses different verbiage, so I wanted to clarify before reading further.
I need to preface this post by letting everyone know I did not come up with the idea of clip charts. I have to give the credit to a colleague of mine named Joey. When I was a Curriculum Director, I was observing Joey giving a lesson. That’s when I saw the clip charts hanging in the front of his classroom. I LOVED everything about them! Find out why…
What are clip charts?
Clip charts are a way for teachers to display content they want students to refer to during a lesson and/or unit. In my classroom, I use them to show all the learning targets for a unit of study. They are great to hang up at the beginning of a unit, mark off as you work through each learning target, and highlight the learning target of the day with an arrow. Simple and easy way to show what students learned, are learning, and are going to learn.
Why are clip charts helpful for teachers?
I don’t know about you, but I constantly was forgetting to post the learning target each day. I was getting mad at myself, not only because it is an expectation set by our school and I was dropping the ball, BUT because I knew my students wanted to understand what their learning goals were each day.
I was having a hard time planning, organizing, and consistently posting the standard on the board for various reasons. When I saw the clip charts hanging in Joey’s room, I knew in that instant that they were going to solve my problems…
These will help you stay organized, save you time, and benefit your students…basically make your life easier, with simple preparation that lasts years.
Why are clip charts helpful for students?
One of my former students came up to me one day and said that she missed me as her teacher. One of the reasons was because she always knew what we were learning each day, as I had made it so clear with the clip charts. With her current teacher, it wasn’t posted anywhere, not even by topic on the handouts. She felt this was negatively affecting how she was able to prepare and study for assessments.
Maybe this teacher was having the same issues I had before I started using clip charts? Either way, students NEED to know thee learning targets in order to be successful. Clip charts are an easy way to solve this because students are able to view the learning targets throughout the unit.
Ready to solve your learning target problems?!
Awesome! I have a free clip chart set on linear equations waiting for you in my resource library. Subscribe her to get instant access!
Do you already know you want full sets that are EDITABLE?!
I have that too! Click below on the classroom set you need.
Want to see other ways you can use clip charts in math class?
You can use them for formulas and step-by-step instructions to simplify expressions and solve equations. Many uses to help support students during the learning process! Check out Mr Jones Online for these types of clip charts.
This post is for ALL teachers - elementary, secondary, SLP, learning support, ELL, etc....EVERY SINGLE TEACHER can benefit from this post!
Why, you ask? Well, because we are all looking for ways to improve our practice to better meet the needs of our students. In order to do so, we usually seek out some kind of professional development. So, today, I am going to share with you one of the BEST professional developments I have ever discovered!
First, let's breakdown PD's for a minute. Basically, there are two types of professional development (PD) – free and paid.
I’m not saying PDs are bad. Not at all. We, as teachers, do need to be lifelong learners and grow in our profession. In fact, I crave to learn and explore more innovative ideas, BUT, in general, my experience with PDs is that the negatives out way the positives, especially if you are on a tight budget.
Well, what if you could attend a PD where you learned a new idea, was free, and required less than an hour of your time? Would you do it? I know I would!!!
A few years ago, I stumbled upon Jennifer Gonzalez’s blog post on Pineapple Charts. It was probably one of the most valuable blog posts I have ever read because it solved my PD problem. I teach at a private, international school that has limited access to professional development due to location and expense. After reading her post, I realized I don’t need to fly back to the States to learn how to be a better teacher. Nope, all I have to do is walk right next door and observe a fellow teacher who has already gone to PD's and is implementing the techniques in their classroom. Yep, you read it right. The PD I have been seeking all this time was right next door all along.
So, what do I mean? I recommend you read Jennifer’s blog post about what Pineapplinng is, because quite frankly, she is an amazing, attention-getting writer and I don’t think I could ever summarize it any better than she already has.
Now that you've read Jennifer's blog post, and understand what Pineappling is, here is my breakdown of the benefits:
In lieu, of Jennifer’s blog post, I decided to implement Pineappling at my school, not just for myself, but for all staff members. I created a powerpoint explaining what Pineappling is, how it’s helpful, and how to use the Pineapple Chart. This is our third year using it and it’s been AMAZING! Teachers love having the opportunity to learn from their peers and also show off their talents. Below is an example of our Pineapple Chart:
I know what you are thinking....I love it!...but I don't know how to start implementing it at my school. Don't worry! I have you covered. I am happy to share my professional development resource with you! The resource is 100% editable and includes the following:
• Powerpoint presentation explaining what a Pineapple Chart is, the benefits, and how your school can implement it. (7 slides)
• Pineapple Chart (1 slide)
• Peer Observation Form that may be helpful in assisting teachers with their thought process while observing other teachers. (1 page)
Click on the image below to go directly to the resource:
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You know when you give a quiz and students do well on one objective, but almost all of them completely bomb the other objective? That's when I know I did not effectively teach the second objective. So, back to the drawing board I go.
The quiz was on solving exponential and logarithmic equations. Most of the students clearly and easily solved the logarithmic equations. But, WHOA, those exponential equations really threw them for a loop!
I had taught the solving exponential equations lesson right before spring break. Normally, I write all of my own lessons, but this time I decided to use a lesson from a textbook (stupid, stupid, stupid!). In this lesson, the textbook had only shown how to solve exponential equations using logarithms as the inverse operation to exponentials. At the time, I didn’t think twice about it. I had already showed them in a previous lesson how to rewrite a logarithmic equation to an exponential equation and vice versa. I assumed they would apply that knowledge too. Ugh…bad assumption.
When we did the practice activities the day before the quiz, I also reviewed the property of equality for exponential equations. I think that is when I started to realize that I did not CLEARLY define the three methods to solving exponential equations, which is not like me at all. If you’ve read this post, you’d know I think one of the best ways for students to understand math is to compare and contrast different methods.
Anyway, the students seemed to be doing okay in the group activity, so I gave them the quiz the next day. Once I began grading them, I immediately realized they were struggling to solve the exponential equations. They were mixing methods all over the place. That’s when you get that pit in your stomach and think oh man, where did I go wrong with this lesson?!
It’s not the textbook’s fault, it’s mine. I so regret not taking a more critical eye to the textbook lesson. Maybe it was me being antsy for spring break or the fact that I had wanted to revamp some of my notes for that unit and I hadn’t had time to do so, so I was wanting an “easy” way out. Whatever the reason, it doesn't matter, I knew I had to fix it with my students.
I decided to create a graphic organizer that CLEARLY states each method and the proper steps to solve. I will be using this with my students tomorrow to review solving exponential equations and then giving a mini retake on this objective.
I’ll update you all soon on how it goes. I imagine it will be MUCH better!!!
In the mean time, I want to share the graphic organizer I created with all of you! Maybe it will prevent you from having an exponential failure like I did.
Click on the picture below to download the file. Enjoy!
UPDATE: Ummmmm, yeah, went soooooo much better!!!!