Monday, March 19, 2018

Ten Cent Notebooks Keep Me Sane - Lists, lists, and more lists

At the beginning of the school year, Walmart sells their 70-page spiral notebooks for $0.10 and I purchase about 50 of them.  I figure at 10 cents a notebook, I'll find a use for them even if that use is giving them to my students.

I started this year very disorganized.  Between school, family, being a business owner (thank God for my partners), Sunday School teacher, and just life in general, my thoughts were always scattered.  I wasn't utilizing my prep period to full capacity and spent most of my time running around starting one project, then realizing there is a more important item I should be working on.

Here are some of the things I forgot to do on a regular basis:

  • filling out student behavior forms.  
  • checking my own children's homework.
  • grocery shopping.
  • getting materials together for Sunday School.
  • ordering certain items for the cafe.
  • unlocking assignments for the students. 

I really started to notice my disorganization during the block periods.  This year our school has adopted a fusion schedule where 3 days of the week we have traditional-length classes (45 minutes) and two days of the week are block-length classes (90 minutes).  On those block days I was bored, and so were the students, because I was neglecting to plan.  Fail to plan = plan to fail, as they say.  I was failing....and frustrated....and bored....

One day I was mentally running through my to-do list but it was so long that I couldn't remember it all.  That's when I went to my cabinet and grabbed one of my 50 notebooks, opened it to the first page and wrote "TO-DO" at the top.  Then I took a few minutes to write down everything that needed to get done at school. You know what?  By the end of the day the entire page was full of things.  Every. Single. Line.  But do you also know what?  I was able to finish most of it by the end of the day.  I even had an interesting lesson plan ready to go for the next time I had a block class.

But here is where the real change my mental dialogue to myself.  Once I wrote down something I needed to do, it was as if my subconscious was given permission to "let it go".  My mind was no longer cluttered with mental to-do lists.  Every time throughout the day when I had a free minute, I would refer to my checklist and DO SOMETHING. 

Rereading this post I realize how obvious this sounds, but I'm hoping that it helps at least one other teacher.  Something as simple as writing down what you need to do can clear you mind to focus at the task on hand and be awesome!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Absolute Value Inequalities: Error Analysis (Printable)

I created an error analysis activity for my students that includes the most common errors that I've seen throughout my duration as a teacher....for Absolute Value Inequalities.

Here is a link to the file if you are interested.  It's a link to Teachers pay Teachers, but don't worry....its free.

Absolute Value Inequalities: Error Analysis

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Celebrating Mistakes

Today we (or rather I) celebrated mistakes in my classroom.  This is a no effort lesson plan that I rely on once in a while and is very effective.  

Before Class:
Generate problems for the students to complete (more than enough for the class period).  That's it!

During Class:
I review a few examples with the students before we begin the 'activity'.
Randomly pick a student to choose a number from 1 to however-many-problems-you-generated.  I write that problem on the board and the students complete it at their seats.  I also warn the students to write neatly because their work will be displayed for the entire class to see.  
Once the students have completed the problem I randomly pick a student and take a photo of their work with my iPad and display it on the apple TV.  Warts and all.

Note:  I am very unhelpful when the students are working on the problem at their seats.  I want the class to see THEIR work, not mine.  I tell the students that I LOVE when they make shows that they're trying and their brains grow when they make a mistake.  This is great formative assessment.  
I also enjoy the fact that the students can see that they are not the only ones possibly struggling this the topic.  It's perfect to not be perfect.  

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Four 4s Posters

A few months ago I created these Four 4s posters from 1-100.  If you're not familiar, these are problems where you can use exactly four 4s to get a certain number.  Operations such as plus, minus, multiplication, division, exponents, square roots, and factorial can be used.  And of course parenthesis.  Be careful that you only use the number 4.  For example, don't use a 2 as an exponent.  And be careful that you use exactly four 4s....not three 4s or five 4s.  

I wanted something for the early-finish students.  When a student finishes their classwork early, he can try to figure out one of the open numbers.  As a student would determine one of the numbers, she would show it to me for confirmation, write her solution next to the number and sign her name.  

And yes, you can find solutions on line and I addressed this right away with the students.  You can find one such website here.  I told the students that we wouldn't be looking these things up online, we wanted to see what we could do on our own.  As you can see from the image below, I believe the students are complying with our agreement.  

Some of my students are really into this.  One student has 10 of the numbers and another student has 12 of them.  Keep in mind that I have over 100 students, so these two students are really going to town.  When I first posted the numbers and explained how it works, a few students were so excited, with one student saying, "I WILL get my name on that poster!".  

Friday, July 7, 2017

Absolutely Valuable is DIGITAL!!!!

I am proud to announce that my game, Absolutely Valuable, is digital.  You and your students can play it on a computer.

Click here to play.

I created a video run-through on how to play.  CLICK HERE TO WATCH THAT.

Every year I work with the computer programing and art students at a nearby community college to take one of my classroom games and make it digital.  This is the second game to actually get finished, but the first that is sharable!!!  

For those who are not familiar with my game Absolutely Valuable, it is a game that helps students practice solving absolute value equations.  BUT, it's not quiz-like in nature.  

The college students have one semester to create the game.  As you can image, there is a lot that needs to happen in order for a computer game to finish in one semester.  First, the students have to work together (which this team obviously did).  The students also need to learn the necessary programming and how to play the game.  They create all of the art, play-test, and periodically check in with me as well.  The students did an amazing job.  But there are a few things I would tweak, one I want to point out to you.  Do you see the mistake?  I didn't notice it right away.  Yeah, the second absolute value bar.  It's position is wrong.  So, if you play this with your students, please make them aware of that.  

I hope you all enjoy this game.  Please let me know what you think.  ENJOY!!!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Jokers are Wild

So, I did this crazy thing....I opened a game cafe.  My husband and I, along with another couple decided to go into business together.  And Jokers are Wild Game Cafe was born!

The first question we usually get is, "What is a game cafe?"  Here is my answer:  It's a place to eat and/or play board games, participate in our escape room, use our video game library, live an alternative life in Dungeons & Dragons, play Magic the Gathering, or take part in one of our tournaments.  But mostly is a place to gather and become a community.

The second question is, "Are you going to quit teaching?"  Here is my answer:  As of now, no.

The third question is, "Are you mad?!?!?!"  Here is my answer: Yes!

When the cafe was in it's planning stages, I would daydream about not teaching anymore.  It was all too easy to focus on all the negatives associated with teaching and we all know there are a lot of negatives.  I figured that once the cafe opened I would become even more pessimistic about teaching.  We've been open a little over two weeks now and this strange thing happened....I'm happy.  I'm happy everywhere.  I'm happy at the cafe, I'm happy at home, and I happy at school.

All the things I ever wanted as a teacher are starting to happen at the cafe.

  • My students visit and I feel that I've earned a great deal of respect for this undertaking.  I'm getting to know the students better and have time to have real conversations with them without being rushed by a bell or a curriculum that needs to be covered.  
  • My creative side was being suffocated at school.  I felt pressure from multiple sources to teach to the state test, and that my games and activities were nonsense and a waste of the student's time.  But at the cafe I have the freedom to create the escape room, which board and card games to include in my library, to design and test my own games, and to work with the other owners on whatever we want.    
  • We are all aware that SOME students see us as the enemy because we are the teacher.  I knew that, but I wasn't as aware of it until the cafe opened.  A few students came in that I have in class and really don't have a relationship with, because they don't open up to me (am I the enemy to them?).  Since visiting the cafe and seeing me as a person rather than their teacher, I have a new relationship with them and I physically felt the 'enemy' title lift off me when I saw them at school.  
  • We tell our students all the time to follow their dreams, chase after their passions, and there I sat not following my own advice.  Now I can speak from experience when I give this advice.  Hopefully I cut a new path for another person to follow.  
I don't have any plans to leave the teaching profession anytime soon.  I'll see where the wind blows me, for now I'm happy where I am.  

Here's what I love about the cafe.  I'm doing what I love, I'm surrounded by people who want to be there, we're building a community in our small town, I get to be as creative as I want, my ideas are heard, the customers are awesome, the food is delicious (I eat there almost every day, even on my days off), I'm working with my family, I'm getting to know my step-daughter better, my teaching skills are still being used to match customers with games and teach them, and I accomplished something amazing (okay crazy).  

Check us out:

Facebook: Jokers Game Cafe

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Histograms on Desmos

There is this one lesson in Algebra I where students are required to take a histogram and convert it to a list of number.  Then take that list of numbers and determine the mean, median, mode, range, Q1, Q3, Min, Max, and interquartile range.  The problem was that I couldn't find nice looking histograms anywhere online.  So, I made my own on desmos:

To change the bars all I have to do is click and drag the points where ever I want.  For today's lesson I called students to the computer to create a histogram for us, then we found the information.  Want to use the desmos graph?  Here's a link.