Homework - How do you handle it?

Homework - How do you handle it?   mrseteachesmath.blogspot.com

My homework policy is something that I change every year and always try to tweak.  I feel like it’s such a hard balance to get students to practice, without going overboard.  I want it to be beneficial, without students just blowing it off.

In the past, I’ve done homework as a completion grade only.  All homework assignments were worth the same amount of points (regardless of the length of the assignment).  I gave points based on a sliding scale if it was turned in late or not complete.  That worked fine, but I always seemed to have students just filling in random answers.  While doing that only hurts themselves, it bothered me that they thought they could get credit without doing any work.  So, I started having students check their homework at the beginning of class and write the correct answers for any problems they missed.  The idea was that they could then go back and work the problem again to get the correct answer.  Who knows if they actually did it.

One thing that I’ve found that helps students take homework assignments seriously is putting questions from the homework on tests and quizzes.  Students always kick themselves when they miss a problem on a test that was on the homework.  I also feel like this gives students that work hard, but get nervous for tests a chance to relax.  For hard workers, it can help them relax to see a familiar problem.  I also gave pop quizzes consisting of only homework questions and would let them use their homework on the quiz.  While that wasn’t great, it worked once or twice per school year.

In my perfect world, I would just tell my students to “work enough problems so that you understand the material”, but that’s a joke in high school.  I think for homework to work well, students must be intrinsically motivated.  It is so hard to get apathetic students to care and see the importance of homework.

How do you handle homework in your classroom?

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Pet Peeves in the Classroom

We all have pet peeves.  Every teacher has things that drive them NUTS in their classroom.  It always drives me nuts when students take f-o-r-e-v-e-r getting their supplies ready for class.  I can usually deal with other things, but get your pencil and notebook out and let’s go!

For your entertainment, I asked other teachers about their pet peeves.  Check them out.

Pet Peeves in the Classroom - What bugs you?  mrseteachesmath.blogspot.com

What is your biggest pet peeve in the classroom?

I teach high school students and for my freshmen I have a "twice per week" bathroom rule otherwise it just gets out of hand. I have been pregnant twice and it would drive me NUTS when I was 7 or 8 months pregnant and they would come to me for the third time that week asking to go to the bathroom; I would say "no" and they would say "It's an emergency, I can't hold it". I would simply tell them "no, go sit down", but what I was thinking was.......Really?! It's an emergency?! I have a baby sitting on my bladder and I make it through each of my 82 minute long classes without leaving for a bathroom break! Go sit down!

Students who show up to class without their books, homework, etc.!!!! It drives me up the walls!

My number one pet peeve is the drumming with their hands or pencils! I tell them all the time I'm not the band teacher! My second is being disrespectful! I show my students the utmost respect and except it back!

"How do I get an A?" This is by far my least favorite question. It represents all that is wrong with education. I would love to see my students want to learn for learning's sake. And I feel like I spend each year trying to show them the joy of learning and that life isn't about grades. If I had my way, I wouldn't give grades at all. Oh, and my favorite response to that question is "What do you think you need to do?"

The excuses from students. I don't need a story or an explanation for why you are late or why your assignment wasn't done. Unless it was life-shattering, just say you are late or have incomplete homework and move on.

Students asking to go to the restroom when you know they are only wanting to socialize. I've implemented a system where students get 4 restroom passes per quarter. If they don't use them, the passes are worth extra credit. It has worked wonders!

One of my biggest pet peeves is my students trying to google the worksheets to find answer keys. I already make a majority of my assignments but now I have to do everything because the kids will rather cheat than simply do the work. Even when I do create my own lessons I have to be careful they can be completed within the class period. Some students take pictures and post to snap-chat or Instagram. I will be implementing a policy for students to turn their phones in at the beginning of class. We do have district issued laptops for the students as well but I am hoping removing the cell phones will make things easier. The plus side of this is that I am becoming more creative and now I write multiple lessons for a task so there is more variety. More variety means less cheating.

For me, it's asking how to complete an assignment after it has already been discussed multiple times. As a middle school teacher, I thought that students would be able to handle simple directions and follow them, even after I've gone over them several times and asked if anyone needed clarification. Unfortunately, there's always a few who ask "how do we do this?" It's my BIGGEST pet peeve.

...students who have field trips, meetings with coaches, and errands for student government, all of which must be done during class time. I support all of these extracurricular activities--these are the memories students will keep--but if you miss a high school math class, you'll fall behind. I just can't teach a 90-minute lesson to a student after school in 15 or 20 minutes. 

Multiple interruptions. These include phone calls from the office, runners sent to get students to report to the counseling office, fire alarms going off, noisy gardening machines outside my class, long winded P.A. announcements, runners from other classes looking for supplies (videos, paper, color pencils, staplers, etc…) 

What drives me nuts the most? Students drumming pencils! Seriously, I don't teach band, I teach math and unless you can relate the drumming of your pencil to an arithmetic sequence then STOP!

Students who leave their mess behind! I'm not their mother and if I were, I still wouldn't clean up after them!

A classroom pet peeve of mine is when students randomly ask to go to the bathroom right in the middle of the lesson. It's important to establish your routines at the beginning of the year, so that students are aware of the procedures for this (and any other situation that may arise, for that matter). I started using "Potty Passes" that I got from the great "I'm Lovin Lit." Students get 5 potty passes each quarter. If they have any left over at the end of the quarter, they can get prizes (candy, bonus points, etc.). This GREATLY decreased the amount of times my students were asking to go to the bathroom.

One of my biggest pet peeves is my sophomores not throwing their garbage away. After spending the first semester cleaning up after them each period (broken pencils, crumbled paper, pop tart wrappers, empty water bottles, etc) I had had it. I had a very stubborn 5th period and the usual tactics did not work: continually going over my expectations, discussing the concept of responsibility, emphasizing respect for the janitors, etc. Watching tv one night I had a light bulb moment and figured out a way for them to do the cleaning. For the last 3 minutes of class, every student picked up the piece of garbage closest to them, I positioned 3 garbage cans throughout the room, and from the spot where they picked up the trash they had one chance to "make a basket." If they missed they had go put it in the can by hand. During second semester I lost the last 3 minutes of my 5th period, but I also had my clean classroom back! 

When a students' pencil "breaks" an excessive number of times and they HAVE to walk past their best friend to get to the pencil sharpener. 

This may seem like the silliest thing, but some of you might feel the same way. Nothing drives me crazier than when someone erases something on the whiteboard, but doesn't get every. single. last. pen. mark. Drives me nuts. So when I am erasing something while in the classroom, I have to make sure I erase EVERYTHING! My students know me so well that they will tell me if I've missed even the smallest spot! You could say I'm "Type A" ...

Stupid questions. Don't tell me there isn't such a thing. For example: Let's assume I am using a PowerPoint, Nearpod, or Prezi to review. The last "slide" says, "Page 21" I say, "Everyone get our your books and turn to page 21. Students say, "What page?" GRRRRRRR Even if you ignore me or didn't hear, just look up and see it! Another example is when students don't understand something. I ENCOURAGE them to ask questions, but so often all I hear is, "I don't get it." or "What?" I actually do a mini-lesson on asking specific questions that help me help them 

WHISTLING is a big NO NO in my class....I can't take it. I tell students if they continue to whistle, I'm going to make them a sign that they have to tape to their back that says: "I do not know how to stop whistling in class, so Mrs. Bauer made me wear this sign". That usually works. At least I've never had to actually put the sign on a student. ;)

What drives you crazy?

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Properties of Quadrilaterals Interactive Notebook Page

I love teaching quadrilaterals because there are so many fun activities to do!  Once my students have learned all of the properties of quadrilaterals (a few lessons over several days), I like to have a lesson where they “put it all together”.  I tell the story of the quadrilateral family tree, and have students make their own study guides to help them organize all of the properties in their minds.  This interactive notebook page and activity would be a prefect way to wrap up that lesson!

First, this is the page that would be good to use during the lesson.  I color-coded the different blocks to help students see the differences between the categories.  This half page was a free product from Math to the Core.

Properties of Quadrilaterals Interactive Notebook Page Idea - link to a free download  |  mrseteachesmath.blogspot.com

Here are some close-ups:

Properties of Quadrilaterals Interactive Notebook Page Idea - link to a free download  |  mrseteachesmath.blogspot.com

Properties of Quadrilaterals Interactive Notebook Page Idea - link to a free download  |  mrseteachesmath.blogspot.com

Then, on the facing page, students can complete an always-sometimes-never activity.  

Properties of Quadrilaterals Interactive Notebook Page Idea  |  mrseteachesmath.blogspot.com

I have the cards in my Teachers pay Teachers store.  Instead of using them as a matching activity, they can be glued into an interactive notebook as a student-output activity.

Properties of Quadrilaterals Interactive Notebook Page Idea  |  mrseteachesmath.blogspot.com

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Teachers Share: Lessons that Bombed... and How to Fix Them

Teachers Share:  Lessons that Bombed... and How to Fix Them  |  mrseteachesmath.blogspot.com

We all have lessons that just don't work out.  Sometimes we expect too much, sometimes or materials don't work, and sometimes we just have an off day.  There are tons of reasons a lesson can "bomb".  I asked around and lots of teachers shared a lesson of theirs that was less than stellar, and how they fixed it.

The first year with a new curriculum we were to assign 3rd graders a 7 week research project of how technology in various areas have improved human need. We struggled and turned to TpT to find graphic organizers and planning pages. We ended up taking 9 weeks instead of 7 and consolidated the topics the next year. 

The first time I taught Geometry proofs, I followed the textbook to introduce the concept of two-column proofs. It included a few Algebra proofs, but they were the typical Algebra proofs in which you just solve an equation and justify each step. My students really struggled when we got into the Geometry proofs. The first Geometry proof lesson was really rough. The kids complained that it made no sense at all. I realized that the main source of their confusion was the Transitive Property and Substitution. I actually went back and re-did the entire introduction to proofs and created a whole new breed of Algebra proof to break this process into bite-sized pieces. The kids got comfortable with manipulating and combining the steps within their proofs BEFORE having to work with a diagram or new Geometry concepts. It made a huge difference, and I was then able to perfect my proof unit for the next class. Now, this is my favorite lesson to teach. Read more about it here.

For one of my teacher evaluations I had an exciting lab planned. I found a bunch of elodea (an aquatic fish tank plant) on ebay at a much cheaper price than the local pet stores. Score! So I ordered a bunch of it, and it came in the mail the day before my evaluation. I live in Phoenix, where the inside of a metal mailbox can reach temperatures of... well lets just say really stinking hot! As I walked to the mailbox after school, I could smell a rotten fishy smell from 50 feet away. I was near tears as I opened my rotten package. After scrambling to 3 pet stores that evening, I luckily found enough to make it through my evaluation the next day. Lesson learned- don't order things on ebay when it comes to teacher evaluations!

My first year teaching, I had the hilarious experience of once trying to teach the same lesson plan to a class for a second day in a row. I had four sections criss-crossing across the weekly schedule and just got mixed up. I had been teaching it for about 10 minutes when one of my students said, "Um? I think we did this yesterday? I mean, we liked it..." It was the first time I ever had to make up a lesson plan on my feet, and it was actually pretty freeing. Once I realized I could make up 40 minutes of activities from scratch with all my students watching, I felt less stressed about having everything prepared down to the second. 

I had a scheduled observation coming up and decided to teach a lesson using the SmartBoard I had recently received for my classroom. Using a SmartBoard was new for me and I wanted to get feedback on how I was doing with it so I taught a lesson that was completely new. I had a pretty good relationship with my supervisor so I wasn't afraid of taking the risk during an observation whose purpose was to evaluate my teaching ability. Well, that might not have been the smartest thing to do! While not a complete disaster, the lesson did not go well at all. It was a fifth grade ESL Social Studies class and I was trying to teach about Native American cultures and regions. About halfway through the period, it was becoming increasingly clear that the kids did not understand what was going on. Nevertheless, I kept going.
The post-observation conference was actually very helpful. She gave me several suggestions not only for how I could have better designed the lesson to begin with but also how I could have salvaged it once I realized it wasn't going well. She also gave me some recommendations for future lessons. For my lesson with that class the next day, I completely redid my lesson plan and instead retaught the concepts the kids were confused about. When my supervisor came to observe me the next time, I made sure I incorporated her recommendations into my lesson. Her write-up of that observation indicated her satisfaction about that and the feedback was much more complimentary.
What I also learned was that if a lesson isn't going well, even if someone is observing you and is expecting to see something in particular (because it was discussed in advance), don't be afraid to change course partway through the lesson. It's better to stop and regroup than to mindlessly continue doing something that isn't helping students learn. The purpose of a lesson is to provide instruction in a comprehensible way and if that's not happening for the students, then it's better to change what you're doing. If you sense that something isn't going well, don't wait for someone else to confirm that! Go with your instinct--teachers have to make decisions on the fly all the time and even if it's during an observation by your supervisor, don't be afraid to make a decision during that time, either. 
This product can help teachers figure out how they feel about various aspects of teaching, including professional development.

In my first year (Back before Pinterest, TpT, and common core), I had an objective about text features. There was no exemplars of what the text features were or suggestions of how to teach the lesson. The lesson itself was a failure because I wasn't clear on the objectives or the methods that would have my students understand the features. Even worse, it was the day my principal and a consultant chose to observe me. Afterwards, my principal and I came up with a plan to help me improve my lesson planning. I think it was a huge growth moment because I needed help and I had to humble myself to get the help I needed to develop myself as a teacher. It was a tough but very necessary lesson. 

Every year when I try to teach inverse functions in Algebra 2 and Precalculus, it doesn't resonate with students what inverses are, how they look on a graph, how to find an inverse given a function, or what happens when they are composed. The only thing I can get them to remember is that the domain and range switch. I've even tried breaking the lesson up into two days, but the results are the same....they look at me like I just taught them math in a foreign language and honestly, sometimes I feel like I have because I know I haven't found a good way to teach it.
This year I tried something completely different by having them do a discovery lesson on inverses that they could work on with a partner. I was very nervous to try this method with such a difficult topic, but I thought what the heck, I'm going for it. I was pleasantly surprised how well they did with it, and they rocked the quiz that was given a few days later. I even had one student come in "bragging" that she taught two other students how to do inverses. What?!?! A student is doing the teaching.....I couldn't ask for anything more. I find so much value in students effectively communicating math with each other. The students were definitely overwhelmed at first, but the end result showed they learned the material with minimal help from me and were able to prove they retained the information. I'm sure there are many more great methods, but I'm just happy I found one that finally worked well for my students.

This isn't so much as a bomb as a failure to get kids to listen.  I was getting really tired of having to reteach lessons on paragraph structure, embedding and citing quotations, etc.  My students were given lessons and handouts but they would never dig through their binders to find them. So I created my English Student's Guidebook, an easy to use flip book that they can use as a quick reference.

A new principal, who wasn't familiar with me or my teaching, did an unannounced observation. Unfortunately, it was one of those days where everyone was working independently on a worksheet. There was no cooperative groups or differentiation that could be seen...and we know how they LOVE both of these! Fortunately, I had a planned observation coming up, so I decided to create task cards on a variety of different objectives and assigned students to groups based on the area that they needed to work on (one group worked on point of view, one group did Common Core Vocab, and another did text structure). Of course, it could be set up any way the teacher felt worked best, but for observation purposes, this is how I did it that day. Although they're called "End of Year Test Prep Task Cards," they could be used at any point.

I was teaching factoring quadratics. I thought I would make it kinesthetic with number and variable cards. Previously, my students had used similar cards to factor. The lesson had gone great, so I thought I would use the same principles. Unfortunately, it was a disaster! The students could factor the different parts of the quadratic, but making the connection to the next steps were just not there. There was a lot of frustration on my students' part and mine. I don't know why I hadn't seen it. So, we scrapped it (fortunately it was just one center) and used other centers that day. The next day, I tried again with a completely different method I had seen using boxes, and it really clicked. While the second lesson wasn't as kinesthetic as the first one, the students still learned the concept and were actively engaged. Bad lessons happen, and sometimes I just can't foresee them. Still, it's what you learn out of it that makes you a better teacher.

I was teaching a brand new speech class. The school was unhappy with the old curriculum and told me to, "make it better."  One class I was setting up my Crowdrise project.  I was REALLY excited. It was going to involve infographics, presentations, videos, and more! Students would be making a difference in the REAL WORLD, not just my classroom. However, once we started I realized that students had no clue how to take into account audience. Once I realized that I divided the project up in a very chunky manner. They finished the first infographic and then we switched to a different project.  I put the first one on hold and we spent about two weeks just focusing on an Audience Project (The Shirt Day Project).  Once that project finished, their grasp of speaking to different audiences had MASSIVELY improved, and they were ready to go to the project we put on pause. I don't ever think there's a problem with pausing a project or book to work on something else if you realize your students need more help in that area.

Did you ever have a lesson that totally fell flat?

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Compound Interest Interactive Notebook Page

In Algebra 2, I loved teaching about compound interest.  I didn’t have to try as hard to keep my student’s interest, because we were talking about money!

Here is an example for an interactive notebook page.  The foldable is by The Math Nerdette.  You can find it for FREE on Teachers pay Teachers.

Compound Interest Interactive Notebook Page - good for Algebra 2  mrseteachesmath.blogspot.com

Under the left flap, I wrote what each of the variables represents.

Compound Interest Interactive Notebook Page - good for Algebra 2  mrseteachesmath.blogspot.com

Under the right flap, I wrote about the different ways things can be compounded.

Compound Interest Interactive Notebook Page - good for Algebra 2  mrseteachesmath.blogspot.com

At the bottom of the foldable, I wrote out an example.  Since it is blank, you can choose how easy or hard you want the example to be.  You could even change the example based on the level of each class period you have.  I also wrote the formula for continuous compounding.  I teach this formula at the same time, but I notice that students don’t need as much practice with this one.

Compound Interest Interactive Notebook Page - good for Algebra 2  mrseteachesmath.blogspot.com

Then, at the bottom of the page, I glued in a typed out example.  This can help save time in class.  You can download the file for the example here.  I like using a comparison problem for an example, because it gives students practice with both formulas.  I like to put a question like this on my test :)

Compound Interest Interactive Notebook Page - good for Algebra 2  mrseteachesmath.blogspot.com

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What Can a Teacher Do to be a Good Mentor?

When I first started teaching, I had a great mentor teacher.  She would quietly listen to me vent, give helpful ideas, and share good news.  We were teaching the same prep and she gave me TONS of materials labeled by unit.  My first year would have been much rockier if it wasn’t for her.

Then, a few years later, I was given the opportunity to be a mentor for another new teacher.  I tried to emulate everything my mentor did for me, in order to make her year smoother.  After reflecting back over this experience, I asked other teachers for qualities that make a good mentor.  You don’t even have to “officially” be a mentor to a new teacher; it is important that we help each other out when we can.

Resources, tips, and ideas to help the new teacher on your team.  {teacher mentor}

What can a teacher do to be a good mentor?

Don't bombard them with "stuff"!  I know we all want to share, but the last thing a new teacher needs is piles of stuff to go through (no matter how wonderful it is) when they're already overloaded.  Instead, ask them specific meaningful questions: "How are you planning on introducing this novel?" Or "Do you have a plan for comparing fossil fuels and alternative fuel sources?"  Then you can share specific lessons, ideas, or activities that they can use right away.

The best thing my department chair did for me during my first year was invite me to have lunch with her and then listen to my stories.  I would bring scones, she would make fruit salad, and she would say nice things about what I was doing.  She never tried to tell me what to do or made me feel badly about a problem, she just listened and supported me.  I have had far more critical and judgmental department chairs since then, and I think she helped me the most to want to improve and to work hard. 

A mentor teacher needs to be available to their mentee: set a regular catching up time every week or two. This is important because often times in the busy of the school year, teachers get into their own groove.
Mentor teachers need to ask frequently: How are you doing? What do you need? The first question is important because teaching is an emotional job, and the new teacher needs to know that you are there. The second questions is framed, so the new teacher has an opening for whatever it is he or she needs as opposed to responding to Do you need anything? which results in a no.

A teacher needs to be supportive of new teachers and help them with ideas but also open to the ideas of the new teacher. I found it very helpful to do a co-plan/co-teach because seeing how it is done is better than just being told. 

Listen! They need to be able to work through their issues as a new teacher without being told what to do. Of course, we vets should be there to guide and advise but just as with our students, new teachers will come to their own solutions if we give them a chance to talk it out.

* Be patient. It is so hard to come in as a newbie especially when everyone else is settled, has their classes up and running, knows everybody else etc. It can be so daunting! Do not expect them to walk in, amaze everyone first day then go home.
* Be social. Ask questions, chat with them, find out information about them, a flowing conversation can quickly lead to a friendship! 
* Introductions and Tour. Introduce them to others around the School, point out different areas of the School - where are resources stored?!?!?! A vital piece of information that everyone needs to know yet people may not realize to pass this information on.
* Push not Pushy. Over the course of a School year you will be able to find out so much about the new teacher; what makes them tick, strengths, weakness, what they need to work on yet what areas they could teachers others on! I believe in pushing people out of their comfort zone to achieve something, but don't become over pushy. Push them to achieve the best that they can - don't push them over the edge!
* Supportive. EVERYONE has a bad day. You are not working in a proper classroom if you've never had a bad day. It happens to us all, it could be something from your personal life, classroom etc. Be sure to support them, this could be just listening to them rant, chatting with them or a general coffee chat.
* Role Model. Make sure you practice what you preach. It is all well and good telling newbie Sally that she HAS to teach phonics everyday yet you teach it once a month... that she HAS to have reports done by Friday, yet you won't do yours for another 3 weeks... fair is fair, be sure to be consistent and show that you are a good role model. This may even mean inviting the newbie to observe one of your lessons so they can get ideas!!
* Pairs. Noah wasn't stupid, he put 2 of every animal on that Ark for a reason. 2 heads are better than one (of course he also needed 2 to breed but never mind let's skip that part) 2 minds, 2 times the ideas do you get me? Alone you can make great lessons, but together? Magic happens.

To be a good mentor to new teachers I think you need to be incredibly understanding that they won't know everything and have a lot to learn. So it is best to help them by first focusing on the core skills of a teacher e.g. teaching major curriculum areas, assessment etc before worrying about the details e.g. how they get their students to lay out their books.

A good mentor can help a new teacher with zero judgement. Ask a lot of questions to understand why a new teacher made a specific choice. Once you understand the teacher's thinking, then it will be easier to offer helpful advice. This will help the new teacher feel valued and make him or her more receptive to feedback.
Also, invite the new teacher to visit your classroom while you are teaching. We can all learn so much by watching someone else, but a new teacher may be too shy to ask. Invite them and then make it easy for them to come by scheduling a time that works for them or helping to get their class covered.

Go to them and explain things like bus dismissal, Halloween parties, etc. these are often things that are very stressful to new teachers and are different from building to building. I remember being in tears the first day of school over bus dismissal, my mentor teachers (who were AWESOME by the way) felt so bad! Long story, but don't assume they know! Make sure they do!

Be available without smothering the new teacher! It's important that the mentee is aware of the key points that they need to know. Since there is SO much information, I think it's a good idea for the mentor to just go over all the things that has to be done for the first week of school (getting classroom set up, show how to take attendance, setting classroom expectations/rules, establishing routines, etc). This way, they (hopefully) aren't too overwhelmed.

Two things: Listen, and help new teachers find answers themselves. Whether they are new to teaching or just new to a particular school district, new teachers have tons of questions and they are often nervous about asking them because they don't want to make a bad impression. By just calmly listening to their concerns and answering their questions as best they can, mentors (official or otherwise) can allay new teachers' uncertainty and help them focus on providing the best classroom instruction possible. I was a CIA coach (curriculum, instruction, and assessment coach) for new ESL teachers in my district for a couple years and the best thing I did, I think, was to have an open door policy: Whenever the new teachers came to my room to talk to me, they could do so right away. I didn't schedule an appointment for some future time--I stopped whatever I was doing and gave my full attention to them. I listened carefully to what they were saying and did my best to help them figure out solutions themselves to problems or issues. And if I didn't know the answer, I was honest and told them so, and said I'd try to find out and would get back to them.

I just finished my first year teaching and the best thing my mentor teachers did for me was stop by my classroom before (and sometimes after) school to see how I was doing or if I needed anything.  The constant support was AMAZING and I'm so thankful for their kindness.  

Within the first 5 years of teaching, I had taught at 4 different schools in 3 different states (Explanation: Husband’s job). Each new school system required new teacher orientation. Mentors were often assigned. Advice on how to teach abounded. Frankly though, I struggled most with connecting to the pre-existing community of teachers. To many my name was simply “The New Teacher.” At the secondary level, often we teach in isolation. If you want to be a good mentor to a new teacher, find out where he or she eats lunch. Is it alone in the classroom under the pretense of so-much-work-to-get-done? I’ve been at my current school for 7 years (Hallelujah!). It wasn’t until the end of the 3rd year that I felt comfortable and welcomed in the teacher’s lounge at lunch. Fast forwarding to the present day, a new friend/new teacher often has said, “I feel like I’m bothering everyone with my questions.” For me, a sense of belonging made seeking out help for areas of most concern relatively painless. 

I think the best thing veteran teachers can do for new teachers is to reach out to them and foster collaborative relationships. Teaching is such an isolated profession. Many new teachers are very overwhelmed (I'm not new to the field and all of the changes and ambiguity around Common Core have me overwhelmed). It is always nice to have someone lend a helping hand, a smiling face, or just an ear to bend during those first few trying years. 
Kristie Martinez

For me I would have to say to take them under your wing, give them as much advice as you can to what worked for you and want didn't, and listen to them. Don't act like your their boss, be a friend!

New high school teachers can be a little nervous...so give them lots of love. Sandwich your constructive criticism between nuggets of praise. The most successful thing I've found is to role-play. Having trouble making that parent phone call Role-play...I'll be the parent. Having trouble making that student behave? Role-play...I'll be that student. And encourage new teachers to observe other teachers, so they can find their own personal style. 

New teachers are often isolated because they are not part of the established group, they need to be consciously included. So it is important to be available to help and answer their questions. Each school site has its own rituals and routines. It really helps to point out where to get supplies, find the nearest bathroom, invite the new college to lunch or coffee (especially when everybody gathers in various rooms, because there is no faculty lunch room.), etc.… 
One of the things I do is to give new teachers a heads-up on important events: Back to School Night, 5 and 10 week report cards, special bell schedules. Because I’ve been at the school several years, I know to plan these events into my teaching calendar, but for a new teacher they tend to be off their radars and come as a surprise. Then grading for tests, papers, and projects are crammed into marathon sessions to meet the report card deadlines. Not nice. Not fun. And way too much stress. 

Do you have any other ways teachers can be a good mentor to new teachers?  Please share!

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My Favorite Websites for Math Teachers

Are you a high school math teacher?  This is a list of the BEST and MOST HELPFUL websites for teachers.  Best of all, they're FREE!

There are several websites that I use ALL THE TIME at school.  I thought I’d share them with you!  In no particular order…
  • Wolfram Alpha - This website is essentially an academic google.  You can search all kinds of stuff and it will give you an encyclopedic type answer.  However, it is made by the same company as Mathematica.  It will do all kinds of math computations for you without you having to code anything.  It has greatly contributed to my laziness while making keys for homework and tests :)  You can type in things like you would in Google and get answers.  Check out the beauty below.
My Favorite Websites for Math Teachers  mrseteachesmath.blogspot.com
  • Youtube - Youtube is great for finding video clips to enhance lessons.  I have written about videos for teaching slope.  Lots of teachers have also posted videos of themselves teaching lessons.  This could be a great alternative if you need to be out sick, but still teach content.  It’s always nice to have options!
  • Pinterest - I don’t think Pinterest is new to anyone, but it’s still a great place to get ideas.  I often use the search function like google to search for topics or keywords for lessons.  I have a Pinterest board for each high school math course and lots of boards for other school related things too.
My Favorite Websites for Math Teachers  mrseteachesmath.blogspot.com
  • Teachers pay Teachers - I talk about Teachers pay Teachers quite a bit, but it really has been so helpful for me.  There have been several times that I’ve been in a bind and needed something quickly.  TpT has always come through for me.  It’s nice to get the free resources, but if you’re willing to pay, you’ll get very high quality resources.  You can find my store here.
  • Graph Free - This is my favorite online grapher.  I like the Geometer’s Sketchpad software, but it has limitations.  My favorite part about Graph Free is that it is so easy to plot piecewise functions.  You can change the “Plot Function” from Function to Piecewise.  The “Grid Type” can also be changed for trig graphs.  There are video demonstrations if you want a tutorial as well. 
My Favorite Websites for Math Teachers  mrseteachesmath.blogspot.com

My Favorite Websites for Math Teachers  mrseteachesmath.blogspot.com
  • Kahoot - Kahoot is a website that lets you make quizzes for your students to play in class.  It ends up being a fun game.  I wrote about creating a Kahoot and explained how it works here.

While there are tons of great websites out there for math teachers, these are my favorites!

What website could you not do without?
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Triangle Congruence Interactive Notebook Page

My geometry students always seem to fall within two categories: they love triangle congruence (because they think it's easy) or they hate triangle congruence.  There seems to be no middle ground.  My students that hate triangle congruence seem to have the biggest problem remembering the theorems.  The letters of the shortcuts just seem to swim in their heads.  So, I created this foldable to help them sort it out.

Triangle Congruence Interactive Notebook Page - idea for geometry  |  mrseteachesmath.blogspot.com

All of the triangle congruence shortcuts are listed, including the "false shortcuts" that students seem to fall for.

Triangle Congruence Interactive Notebook Page - idea for geometry  |  mrseteachesmath.blogspot.com

Inside each of the tabs is an example and the theorem written in words.  I always like to include theorems written in words so students can become more comfortable with math language.  You can find the foldable here.

Triangle Congruence Foldable - for geometry interactive notebook  |  mrseteachesmath.blogspot.com

Triangle Congruence Foldable - for geometry interactive notebook  |  mrseteachesmath.blogspot.com

Every year, my students ALWAYS seem to use SSA as a shortcut.  I try to ham it up and make a big deal out of not using it.  I say "Ahhh! We don't use bad words in math class - forward or backward!" and "There are no donkeys in here!".  I try to go over the top with acting so that my students will remember.  I like to show this video to help students visualize why it doesn't work.

What is your favorite activity when teaching triangle congruence?

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Two-Step Equations Interactive Notebook Page

I’ve seen elementary school teachers use paint samples in interactive notebooks, and I knew I could think of a place to use them for older kids.  I’ve seen something like this before, but I couldn’t find where to link it :)

I used a four color paint sample to illustrate solving two-step equations.  Here is the completed page:

Solving Two-Step Equations Interactive Notebook Page Idea - for algebra in middle school or high school  | http://mrseteachesmath.blogspot.com/

I used the first color to write the equation.  The next color shows the add/subtract step.  The third color shows the multiply/divide step.  The last color shows substituting in the solution to check the answer.  I think it is very important to have students check their answers, to make sure they are correct.  Off to the side, the steps are explained.  Students could write whatever they needed to in order to remember what to do next.  

Solving Two-Step Equations Interactive Notebook Page Idea - for algebra in middle school or high school  | http://mrseteachesmath.blogspot.com/

At the bottom of the page, I have two practice problems.  Since the steps are listed above, it is a good place for students to do their first independent practice.

Solving Two-Step Equations Interactive Notebook Page Idea - for algebra in middle school or high school  | http://mrseteachesmath.blogspot.com/

If you’re teaching two-step equations, I hope this helps give you ideas!

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Classroom Management Tips

Today, I wanted to share with you some classroom management tips that I’ve learned over the years and some tips that friends have shared with me.  It’s not fun to learn lessons the hard way, so hopefully this will help you solve any problems you’ve been having or will help you prevent future problems.

Many of these tips aren’t groundbreaking, but it’s helpful to have a reminder of what we should be doing.  Keep in mind that not everything works for everyone.  A perfect solution for one teacher may not work at all for another teacher.  The most important thing with any classroom management technique is to be fair and consistent.

Do you teach middle or high school?  Check out these classroom management tips and strategies to help curb problem behaviors.  These ideas have helped me so much!

Classroom Management Tips

Everything you do must have a routine or procedure.  If you don’t tell students a particular way to do something, they will likely invent their own way (and you might not like it!).
Mrs. E Teaches Math

Establish your rules, expectations, and procedures on the VERY FIRST DAY! If you want your students to line up outside your classroom prior to entering your room, students need to know this right from the get-go! If you plan to collect homework as they enter, they need to know to have this out and ready. Your students also need to have a clear understanding of how discipline issues, not completing assignments/homework, will be handled. After 3 missed assignments, will you give them lunch detention, call their parents, etc? The most important piece of advice I would give is to make sure students know this right off the bat. The first week of school, go over your rules/expectations/routines repeatedly each day.

Using a classroom behavior chart is common in elementary classrooms but my middle school students liked it, too. One year I started using one and in the beginning, they weren't too keen on it. but he following year, when I had the same students again, they all asked for it! So even a technique that is associated more with little kids can definitely work with older students as well.
Also, because not all the families of my students had Internet access at home, I created a form to let parents and guardians know how their children did during the week. It has space for providing info about behavior, homework, work done in class, and participation. There are English and Spanish versions. I sent it home on Friday and students had to get it signed and return it the following Monday. A few times when I didn't send the form home--because we had a short week--a couple parents who did have Internet access emailed and asked me where the form was! This is the product I created.

Warmups (I call it bellwork) work very well for me.  Once the routine is established, I don’t have to get the class settled down or anything at the beginning of class.  It helps me get organized and prepare for class to start.  You can read a whole post about how Bellwork Keeps Me Sane.
Mrs. E Teaches Math

Be organized
Be prepared
Don't take the odd comment / remark too seriously.
Have a good sense of humor. 
Breath in... breath out... count to a 100... 

I put a timer on my front board (smartboard), so students know exactly how long they have left for their activity.
Use warm ups!
I (usually) have my students remain in a seat (doesn't have to be their seat) until the bell if we finish early.

Incorporate acceptable movement into your lessons.  Students could stomp their feet if they agree with an answer, hold up a card to answer, use thumbs up and thumbs down, move to stations, whatever.  Students are given an acceptable outlet to fidget to move or get energy out and you are still able to teach the lesson.
Mrs. E Teaches Math

Talk softer when students get louder...or stop talking all together. Wait, wait for the silence. Don't let students think it's okay to talk while you're talking.

I build all the classroom rules with students -- and I teach tone so that students can relate good tone to their own brainpower - and to their own success in my classes. They love to monitor their own tone and I created a product so they keep track (of what becomes their participation grades). 

I like to interrupt myself when students start talking.  It works best if I raise my volume a tiny bit and then stop in the middle of a word.  Whenever another student begins to talk again, I interrupt myself again.  Except for interrupting myself, I have no other reaction to what’s going on.  If this continues more than twice, it starts to really annoy the rest of the class.  I’ve found that their classmates will ask the talkers to be quiet.  Success!
Mrs. E Teaches Math

Allow the students to move around and/or sit on the floor. They get to be more comfortable, and it helps their brains focus.

Be fair and consistent
Don't cave to whining--if it works, the whining continues
Use a no-hands policy to keep everyone engaged
If your students present you with a good argument for something (switching a due date, doing an assignment differently), listen and consider. They will respect you more if they know you listen.
Be yourself--they will respect you more if you're real

This year when my students came in on the board it had what they needed for the day. They would take out what they need and then put their backpacks and everything else in the back of the room. This cut down on students putting their stuff away with three or more minutes left of class and students being on their phones trying to hide it. 
I also greet each student with a handshake at the door. It helps welcome the students and sets the tone for the class.
For lab days or group work each student is assigned a role and has a job to do. This helps make everyone accountable for the group task. 

Know your personality and teaching style and use that to make a seating chart.  It took me a few months to realize that rows just don’t work for me.  Students wasted time finding partner to work with and I felt like students had too many opportunities to visit.  I finally figured out that I work well when students are in partners.  If kids are going to talk, it’s really only convenient to talk to their partner and they don’t have to move around the room as much.  Also, it totally eliminated the “Can you go back?  I didn’t write that down.” because they could just look at their partner’s work next to them.
Mrs. E Teaches Math

Speak in very clear, direct commands.  “Put your notebook under your desk.” leaves no room for questions.  Students know exactly what they should do, where to put it, and when to do it (now).  Leave no room for ambiguity in your speech.  For some people, this takes a lot of practice.
Mrs. E Teaches Math

Zip tie a pencil pouch with everything students will need (eraser, glue stick, MECHANICAL pencil, scissors, etc.) for your class to the back of each chair in your room. I say mechanical pencil because those never need to be sharpened and students won't need to leave their seats in order to complete assignments! 
In order for the above tip to work, you need to spend the first couple weeks of school checking pencil pouches right before the end of class to make sure students have put all your supplies away. This sets the tone that they are responsible for the items in their pencil pouch.

1) Follow through with all your rules and expectations!
2) Don't let them think your nervous 

The key is organization, the more complete the better.
For the teacher:
-Know your standards, objectives, and goals both for the day, week, semester and year and plan accordingly. Have at least plans for next week’s lessons ready to go before you leave on Friday afternoon. That includes all the handouts printed for each day.
-Smooth, quick transitions between activities. All papers, books, material set up and ready to use for each period before the start of school. That includes the agenda on the board for each class.
-A specific seating chart, with attendance taken as soon as the bell rings. Late students lose points on their attendance grade.
-A specific due date, late penalties, and a cut-off date for each assignment
-All assignments and tests graded and returned in a timely manner.
-All grades ready to be printed out at a moment’s notice. (Electronic grading books are wonderful.)
-Class sets of books kept in a specific easy to reach location. Students trained to handout and gather books up at the start and end of a lesson.
-Keeping the classroom clean and neat. (Cupboards and shelves are orderly and not jumbled messes.) The floor, chalk /white boards and desks are kept clean. Gum, crumbs, graffiti, and sticky surfaces are not to be tolerated.
For the students:
-A complete heading on each paper, in a specific location.
-Students trained to clean up the class before the bell rings for dismissal.
-Students trained to be ready to start class when the first bell rings. (Pencils out, agenda written down, homework ready to be turned in, books and papers for the lesson on the desk.)
-Students are responsible and held accountable for arriving on time, being respectful, and completing their assignments.

Do you have your own classroom management tip?  Share in the comments!

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Parallel Lines with Transversals Interactive Notebook Page

Parallel lines is such a fun unit to teach!  I don’t know why I like that unit in Geometry so much, but I do.  

Anyway, I have a interactive notebook page idea for you!

Parallel Lines with Transversals Foldable - an interactive notebook page idea for geometry

First, I would use my Parallel Lines with Transversals Foldable from my TpT store.  There are flaps for each of the types of angles in parallel lines.  Each flap has a definition, diagram, theorem, and practice problem.

Parallel Lines with Transversals Foldable - an interactive notebook page idea for geometry

Parallel Lines with Transversals Foldable - an interactive notebook page idea for geometry

I like to have the students color-code the location of the types of angles.  I wrote a blog post last school year about using color with purpose, and this is an example of when I do that.

I like that this foldable is small enough that something else can be included at the bottom of the page.  It is important to me to include simple proofs of theorems.  So, at the bottom of this page, I chose to include the proof of the Alternate Interior Angles Theorem.  Whenever I do fill in the blank style proofs with my students, I always write everything I would give them in black.  Then, I write everything I would expect them to be able to do in another color.  Again, using color with purpose.

Parallel Lines with Transversals Foldable - an interactive notebook page idea for geometry

This page includes A LOT of information all in one place!  It could be overwhelming for students to do it all in one day, so it might be best for your students to take more than one class period to complete this page.

I hope this gives you some ideas for your own parallel lines with transversals page!

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Teaching Proofs with Proof Cut-Out Activities

So you want to know how to rock teaching proofs?  Proofs cut-out activities are hands down my favorite activity for teaching proofs.

Teaching geometry proofs to high school students can be tough!  These activities help my students with their learning and are more fun than worksheets!

I’ve found that at the very beginning, students need lots of modeling to see how to solve proofs.  Then, when I release them to practice on their own, they often stare at the page.  That’s where cut-out activities come in.  Basically, they are a low stress way for students to practice.  Students kind of have a “word bank” with options to choose from and if they make a mistake they don’t have to erase a million times.

Here’s how they work:

  • I give my students three or four proofs with all the statements and reasons needed for the proofs, jumbled together.
  • The students cut all of them out and sort them into proofs.  Since they’re not writing anything, they can move the statements and reasons around quickly and easily.  
  • If students are struggling, I give them a sheet with hints (included in every proofs cut-out).  Usually, the hints page is enough to help them figure everything out themselves.
  • While students are working, I walk around, check their work, and try to clear up misconceptions.

Teaching Geometry Proofs with Cut-Out Activities | mrseteachesmath.blogspot.com

Teaching Geometry Proofs with Cut-Out Activities | mrseteachesmath.blogspot.com

Proofs cut-outs make it easier for students to make mistakes.  There’s no writing and erasing and writing and erasing and erasing while they’re learning.  Students can easily manipulate the statements and reasons with no record of mistakes.  In my classes, this has totally eliminated students staring off into space and feeling overwhelmed.

Teaching Geometry Proofs with Cut-Out Activities | mrseteachesmath.blogspot.com

Teaching Geometry Proofs with Cut-Out Activities | mrseteachesmath.blogspot.com

I have a few proof cut-out activities in my Teachers pay Teachers store.  Try one out; it will help your students!

Introductory Geometry Proofs Cut-Out Activity

Parallel Lines with Transversals Proofs Cut-Out Activity

Parallel and Perpendicular Lines Proofs Cut-Out Activity

Triangle Congruence Proofs Cut-Out Activity

Triangle Congruence and CPCTC Proofs Cut-Out Activity

Geometry Proofs Cut-Out Activity Bundle

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