SBG and HW

SBG and HW is one of those hot topics for those discussing SBG so, of course, I will throw out my two sense.  I heard one of my co-workers put it like this:  HW is intended to have students practice what they have learned.  They should want to do this since we all know the more you try something, the better you will get.  I am not talking about 20 problems for HW, more like 5 – 10 problems.  This is enough to know if they are getting the concept or are way off without feeling like they wasted their time.

I choose to keep track of HW in a completion check list.  If they did it – I would check it in.  If they did not do their HW I would still expect them to do it – but I will not hand hold them to my room after school.  If they want or need help, my middle school student should really proactive enough to come and see me!

For parents, having a record of what HW was done and what was not, I am able to have conversations with parents that tell the there child has a certain grade on a standard because they did not do their HW or see me for help.  My grades are based on standards.  Just because we gave a quiz each week, does not mean they was their grade.  Most of the quizzes had 2,3, or 4 standards being graded on it.  AND they would see a standard two weeks in a row.  That way they could improve their standard grade.

Screen Shot 2014-07-05 at 2.13.17 PM

July 18 – Teacher must have items for the beginning of the year:  I always have to get a nice new grade book and a calendar for basic planning/layout.  I must get a new desk calendar and usually some sort of organizer (for God knows what…) and probably something for my homeroom (pencils/erasers/etc).  Then I must buy a bunch of senseless stuff from the $1 section of Target or Dollar Tree that I will probably never use. :/


Math Talk

Math Talks are a great idea, but I wish I knew how to get my students to push themselves beyond their comfort level and beyond their current level of understanding.  Many of my students generally struggle with grade level math concepts and when posed a question and told to think about an answer – they don’t.  They do not have the resources to even begin thinking about the problems let alone coming up with a strategy to solve.

Questions I have:

1)  How do you ramp the problems without going to far or making the problem too long?

2)  How do you encourage students without leading them?  This has been a part of the training I have received through Profession Development (West Cook Math Initiative), but I still struggle with this since it is hard to let one math talk take an entire period or more if I don’t step in and say something…

3)  How do you really get students motivated to learn and learn from others?  This applies to all math, but in a math talk where they should be hearing their peers discuss the strategies they used and how they solved the problems, how do you get students invested in their own learning?

Screen Shot 2014-07-05 at 2.13.17 PM

July 17 – Share a great classroom management strategy:  I am not sure if I have one.  I guess I just start with a strong sense of what is expected and then I loosen up as the year goes by.  Once you know the few students to keep an eye on – it is easier.  I can make sure they are on task without spending all my time with them.  Part of it is seating arrangement and part of it is standing in a place that allows you a view of that student without standing next to them.  I also plan on using Class Dojo this year to help with behavior issues.

Once there is an issue – I prefer to talk with the student one on one to get to the bottom of why they are doing what they are doing.  If anything, it takes them to a place where they must confront what they did out of the way of other students and hopefully I get a real answer from my middle school students. :/


So, I always go back to the same question…What is the best way for my students to learn?  

I struggle with this because I feel like I am always trying something new to see if it will work and then I become frustrated and think it is not the best way for them.  For example, when I started flipping, I thought it was great.  Then I heard about mastery flipping, I thought that was great and then I feel like I need more time in each period to effectively get them to do the flipping and check in with them and have math talks/conversations.

Basically, I am thinking about the coming school year and wondering what I can do to better teach my students.  I want to continue flipping when I can, but I want to make sure they talk about math and get excited to learn about math.  Maybe that’s where I should really be directing my thoughts –

How do I get them excited?  

How do I introduce the concepts in an interesting way that will not take too long?  

Our first unit is geometry…is there a way to introduce this concept that is interesting and encompasses all the ideas we need to teach?  Kind of like the Dan Meyer activities, but every time I look at those I get confused as how to use them.

I am open to suggestions and ideas…

I just always want to do the best for my students that will help them remember what they have learned without getting too far from the standards or taking too much time introducing the concepts that they do not see the connection to the standards.

Screen Shot 2014-07-05 at 2.13.17 PM

July 16 – Favorite movies/tv shows:

Movies:  Of course, my favorite movies are the Harry Potter films 😉 I also love most of the Disney/Pixar films – Incredibles and Monsters Inc being among the favorites!  I also love the Muppets movie with Jason Segal.  Mostly – I am a kid at heart!  On the serious side, I loved Primal Fear.

TV Shows:  I may have a problem and watch too much tv…I love So You Think You Can Dance, Big Bang Theory, Blacklist, Bachelor/ette, Castle, Switched at Birth, Suits, Justified, Sing Off, and I think I am forgetting some – if I remember I will add them here…Some are guilty pleasure and some I really LOVE!

Recently ended series:  How I Met Your Mother and Psych

Other videos for Flipping?

Post from yesterday that I started and forgot to finish :(…

images imgres-2 imgres-1

So I am going to put my two sense in the ring about using other videos for flipping.  I am the first one to say when there is a time crunch, use what you can find.  I have used You Tube videos, Khan Academy videos, Learn Zillion videos, etc.  The best quality with the best content for Common Core Math, in my opinion, is Learn Zillion.  These videos are kept short, they look appealing, the information is Common Core.  The best part about Learn Zillion is that you have the option to download the slides yourself and then you can edit them for your students and make your own video!  Just some thoughts for you all if you are thinking about flipping, but hesitant about making your own videos! 🙂


Screen Shot 2014-07-05 at 2.13.17 PM

July 14 – Favorite books to teach with?:  Since I do not teach literature – I do not know.  I did teach it for a few years, and the only one I was excited about was Outsiders. However, now I know this was beyond most of my students reading level, which is why they struggled to pick up on all the symbolism and pull from the test to understand the bigger picture.

Common Core NCTM


Short one today.  I am a member of NCTM and in the most recent email, the president did an extremely nice job of promoting Common Core and addressing the concerns that so many (especially those not in teaching) have expressed.  I appreciate that this organization is supporting Common Core! 🙂

Here is a link to the article: Click Here

Follow her here: @dbriars

Screen Shot 2014-07-05 at 2.13.17 PM

July 12 – Share about my most important friendships:  I feel like there are so many different parts of me and my different groups of friends reflect those sides.

I have one friend that I have had since birth – Leslie and I started as friends because our mom’s are friends since grade school.  Leslie and I never went to the same school, but have remained friends and we both know we will be there for each other no matter what.


I have a small group of friends from HS (Colleen, Tracey, Christine) that still talk and spend time together.  We may each be very different, but we are there for each other and have great memories doing even the smallest of things together!  These are my more serious friends and laid back.  The most important friend I made in HS is also my best friend – my husband Steve!

Meagan & Steve's Wedding


In college, I joined a sorority (Delta Gamma) and there are 8 of us that remain friends(Alison, Connie, Martha, Erika, Sarah, Darla, Katie).  Sadly – we are all spread out over the country (and at times…world).  We may not see each other often or talk nearly as much as we would want, but when we do talk (Google Hangout or our trips), it is like no time has passed.  We pick up right where we left off and have a great time together!  I also have another friend from college, no in the sorority, but nonetheless a great friend!

DSC01463 DG Girls' Weekend DG Girls' Weekend

I have a few past and current co-workers who I consider friends…i.e. we see each other outside of work and talk about things other than work.  They are people who inspire me with their teaching and also are easy to talk to.  They understand the frustrations and celebrate with me in the successes.

Some of them…

New Camera 091 100_1030_0105 IMG_4498 100_0449

Friends are how we get through life.  Family is always there for you, but friends choose to be there for you.


Student Blogging? Share your thoughts!


So after doing some research I have seen a few student blogs that are actually their portfolios.  I am intrigued to say the least.  I knew it would be a valuable tool for ELA and SS and Science, but I was unsure about its usefulness in math.  Yesterday when I posted about some math apps, that is when I saw one teachers blog about apps and came across one of them that led me to an example of her students.  I went to it and saw how it was being used for math.  It looked like the students needed to post assessments and summaries of learning to their blog.  I found it a great way to keep all their learning in one place, that was not random sheets of paper that they through away after the test or notebook that is hard to follow.  The assessments went from pictures of assessment tests and  quizzes to explanation videos of their learning for a specific concept.

This blog post if looking more for your input…

Questions I have:

1)  How is checked by the teacher if you have 110 students?

2)  What sites seem to work best?  The one I saw had a password protected for students.

3)  Did the students find it worth it and use it to for their advantage?  Did they have one for each subject or one blog that has all subjects in it?

I am sure I will have more questions, but let’s start there…

Screen Shot 2014-07-05 at 2.13.17 PM

July 8 – How did I end up in teaching?:  I actually started in TV/Radio Production so my path is different.  I finally knew I wanted to be a teacher after I started coaching and realized I had the patience to teach young people how to do things.  I then tested the waters by becoming a teachers aide while going back to finish off some endorsement credit hours at a community college.  I then got into a program that was specifically designed for students who had a bachelors degree in something else and wanted to change careers.  I think it has always been a part of me because I could distinctly remember playing school at home with my little easel.

Standards Based Grading

First – HAPPY 4th of JULY!!!  Hope everyone had a great and safe holiday!

Second – Standards Based Grading…

For the second half of the school year my grade level counterpart and I decided to give SBG a try.  2 other math teachers in our building had started it at the beginning of the year and we talked to them to get some ideas before jumping in.  This is where I am at so far with this process.

We discussed it with our students and explained that they will be given quizzes every Thursday.  The quizzes will be assessing the recent standards covered and then graded from 5 to 10 out of 10.  To get a 5 they would have basically turned in a paper with nothing on it.  6 and 7 would mean that they are in need of some help on that standard.  An 8 would mean that they are almost there.  A 9 or 10 would mean that they understand the standard.  Homework would begone over and checked in, but not included as part of their grade.  It was still important to complete HW so that they each felt confident for the weekly quizzes.  This way if they say they do not know how to do something on a quiz and that is why they got a low grade on the quiz, I can look back in my gradebook to see if they had been competing their HW.  IF they have not, I can tell them that is why they did not do well.  The other teacher I work with started using Class Dojo to help her keep track of who did their HW and who did not.

This year our district would like to see the middle schools move to solely SBG.  I know this will be a tough push at first, but hopefully we can all see the benefit of this!  Many of our students are struggling, SBG allows for that to happen and not let students sneak by because they can “play school” and get good grades.  We have seen a higher correlation between SBG and other tests given in the year.

Hope this helps many people who are skeptical about SBG and yet want to give it a try this year!

I’m baaaacckkk….


It feels like it has been to long…and it has.  Since I started this blog, many things have changed.  I have grown so much in my mathematical thinking, I have discovered so many new tools in flipping, my team of students and teachers have switched from laptops to iPads, and I recently became a mom to a beautiful baby girl!


I am back and want to be more committed than ever, especially since I will be home with my daughter until November.  I plan to use some nap time each day to post my thoughts and findings when it comes to math, common core, flipping, etc.  I want to use this time and this blog to help organize the overwhelming amount of ideas I come across and figure out the best way to incorporate them into my teaching.  This will be my cathartic way of digesting the information that I find and figuring out the best way to use them so that it will enhance my teaching.  I hope that anyone that follows my blog from now on will also help me find ways to incorporate my thoughts into the classroom or I hope that those following will take something away from this and use it to push their teaching.


My next post will talk more about the tools I currently use, Showbie, Blendspace, eChalk, Mathletics, etc.  I also will be looking into all the Twitter posts from ISTE that happened this past weekend.


Lastly, I want to share again that I am a proponent of the Common Core Math Standards.  I know their is controversy surrounding these standards, but I want you to be aware that I support the idea of teaching students math in a way that helps them to fully understand the math concepts in a way that I was never taught and am currently learning.  This is what I think Common Core math means.  If we can keep this in mind then how are they bad?  Don’t we want this for our children?  Just because it is different from how we are taught, does not make it bad.  I still find value in knowing basic math facts, but I also want them to understand the connection between their facts.  How the four basic operations are related and what rules can be applied to each (commutative, associative, etc) while learning the facts, not later in a separate unit.  I hope this helps you all understand where I am coming from when I go through my blog!  Thanks!

Column: A new way to teach math » Opinion », Salem, MA

Found this article and I LOVE it!!  This is a great way to think about Common Core!  We need to teach differently and that is a GOOD thing!  Change the way we teach so that we can change the way students learn and make them better learners for the future!

Column: A new way to teach math » Opinion », Salem, MA.

Flipping and Common Core

So Friday was an Institute Day for us with morning sessions for all the teachers to go through (keep in mind there are 8 schools in our district).  One of the sessions was given by myself and my co-teacher.  We had to condense a 3 hour professional development into a 25minute presentation on Flipping our Classroom.  Needless to say I felt like I was spewing information at people and hoping for the best.  We did get a lot of great feedback and I know we hope to do more sessions after school.

Here is where I am at with Flipping my Classroom:

– When I started flipping in January I was kind of on my own – no matter what websites I read – everyone is on their own the first time.  I struggled to get people on board (did get my co-teacher on board with my craziness 🙂 ) and had many questions asked to me and questions myself.  I learned with my students about what worked and what didn’t.  In the end I can’t wait to continue!

Some of the questions I get asked and my opinons:

– What about no internet or no computer?

A: Well, first I preface with the fact that I work in a 1:1 district, however the best idea I have for this is to use your video as a center to preview the next day or unit.  As for no internet – I make my videos downloadable – meaning they download before they leave class and watch it at home without internet!  The assessment I have to go with the video might be on the internet, so for them I recommend using their Excel (Homeroom) time wisely and get it done int he afternoon or morning!

– What if they don’t do their homework?

A: My question back is what do you do if they don’t do their regular homework (worksheets and book work?  The advantage is that they can now take a few minutes at the start of class to catch up and then join the activities for the day.  I do have assessments with the videos so they will lose points for not completing them on time, but then they have the lesson.  I will say that some of the students who struggle with homework completion do more when it is a video – they would rather listen to us than do a worksheet 🙂

– What about our special education students?

A:  This is also one of the biggest advantages in my opinion.  When I teach a class I know that some student catch on 2 minutes after I start and are bored…some of the class is following along…the rest are lost 2 minutes after I started talking (including many special education students).  Videos for homework allow those students who need to hear the lesson as many times as needed – CAN!! 🙂  I love it!  (FYI – you need to teach them to go back and re-listen!)  They also come to class prepared for discussion (HUGE for common core) because they have already seen the lesson and even if they don’t know how to do it they heard the vocabulary for it and are more likely to participate!

– Does it take longer to do?

A: Only because you GET to plan more student centered activities….I know…such an issue – NOT!  This is what we all wanted – time to let our students get to mastery through activities, projects, labs, etc.  I would have made the notes anyway (now their more interesting) and it takes 5 more minutes to record!  Now I do more centers and the would have been homework is a center and classwork for a grade!  I can help them before they do an entire worksheet wrong! 🙂

– How do you hold them accountable?

A: I always include something to do after or during.  Ideas: short google forms, discussion boards, warm-up, exit slip, take notes and check in for points.  (FYI – for math I never hold them accountable to start solving problems after watching a video – I still want to work with them in live person – so questions might be ‘What is opposite operation?’ not solve x – 6 = 23)

– What are the advantages/benefits?

A: Some of the biggest benefits of flipping is that I can really get to work with my students one on one or in small groups and they get to work with each other.  Some of your quieter students can watch videos and email you with questions so they are not embarrassed.  And then there is Common Core.  Common Core is supposed to go deeper than the first layer of math concepts we normally teach.  By making videos for some of the concepts we can keep moving fluidly through the parts of each Standard.

For now, these are my thoughts.  I will let you know my progress as I continue this journey!  Please share your questions and comments here!

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: