Author Archives: ladsit76

Week -3: Not Ready for a First Day Lesson

mtbos-sunfun-logoOMG!!  School starts in 2.5 weeks, so I have NO.IDEA.WHATSOEVER about what I’m doing the first day or week.  I’m still laying out my academic year and new, fun things for my classroom.  So I’ll touch on some ideas I have for the first day/week, but instead I’ll share what I’ve been working on to get me to the first day.  So here are some random things I’ve done this week:

Standards Based Grading Musings

I am still waffling between 10-12 power standards for the year vs. 4-5 standards per unit.  I am almost leaning toward using a Power standard (maybe essential learning?) as the umbrella with gradated/granulated stands in units that support the “bigger idea.”  I’m almost envisioning a key word/phrase that exemplifies the Big Idea standard (ooh, I like that term!) and then connect to related focused standards that help students understand more clearly what is expected.

@lisatimon shared with me some of her #SBG items for Precalculus. I just loved the way she organized her study guides and how they highlight her identified standards for the unit.  I’m not expecting to go full bore into #SBG this year, but want to build into my assessment a way to signal to students where the they demonstrates their level of knowledge/aptitude for an identified standard. Then I also want to include one to two items that require my kiddos to recognize the need for multiple standards in one setting and then expertly leverage them  to complete the question.  After reading some other blogs (Anna Vance at, @druinok at, and Jared Derksen at, I’m also leaning toward offering an opportunity to demonstrate mastery of a leveraging skill on a later assessment.  I have had random questions from earlier topics on an assessment, but not purposefully.  I know I need to do this more thoughtfully.

My course is “honors,” so students often grasp the basic skill relatively quickly but because they are so quick, they miss nuances that I want them to wrestle with.  I find when they need to connect or recognize things in unfamiliar or unexpected situations, they falter. So I also try to incorporate rich tasks, and deeper thinking conceptual experiences…but I’m really struggling with how to quantify for a measurable standard. I see these learnings as developing over a long period of time rather than the couple of days for a new skill.  That will be my next ponder.

I love summer, because I dream about what could be.  Then I get hit smack in the middle of my forehead (with my hand) when reality sets in the second to third week.  But this year, I definitely want to push myself toward using the power of SBG.

AP Stats Summer Work – Missed Assigning

Because I was at the AP grading during the last week of school, I missed the opportunity (actually poor planning during an extremely busy time) to get my summer work set up.  Oh well!  Just means I have to really move through our first chapter on Data Display and Analysis more quickly.  Luckily, the Algebra 2 and Precalculus teachers did a statistics unit last year, so I am hopeful they will readily retrieve the learning – Make It Stick in action?

So I spent time creating a handout to go along with a new site shared on Twitter called Exploring Histograms.  It is the first blush, but I think I want to use it during the first week of AP Statsistics.

Also thinking of using the Kristin Gilbert Activity again.  Have to think it through as the last time I used it, I had mediocre results….probably the way I presented it.

Organizing for Group Work

I had to have some fun time creating and gathering for the school year.  So here are some of the things I did:

  • Group Tubs – got numbers put on them
  • Group Roles and Tags – using Sara Carter at‘s group tags, and yes, the hot gluing took longer than “a couple of minutes.”
  • Group Folders – taking the leap based on blogs by Anna Vance at, @druinok at, and Sam Shaw at  I am taking pieces and advice from each of them. Now I have to think about how to introduce to my students and develop a procedure…really like Sam’s Class Captain idea!  Also decided to put little numbers in the upper left corner so my problem-solvers could find their group folder quickly.
  • Random Group Assignments – I was looking for fun ways to create random groups and came across this lovely blog by Jenn Larson at The Teacher Next Door for some ideas. But the gem was at scholatic.  I like the synomyms and antonyms for pairing. I’m thinking of printing another set of pairings (maybe pictures or mathy things) on two color card stock so I can pair by color and then group as 4.  Also found a poster set of Einstein quotes; I created four of the same color for my groups of 4

I’ve gotta stop!!  Time to get to work actually figuring out my standards for Precalculus and re-writing for AP Stats.

I’m really getting into Make It Stick – yeah, I know I’m late to the party – but the party is still going on.  I plan to blog about this sometime, but I wonder if you have any thoughts about how you’ve introduced and then sustained the principles and strategies developed in Make It Stick.  I would love to learn from you!!

Week -4: Goals and Dreams for 2017-18

It has been a while since I blogged.  I think my type-A, perfectionist over-exuberance at wanting to blog at what I envisioned was “top-level” just burned me out.  But since getting back to Twitter (and getting in on the flurry of conversations about TMC, #MTBoS, and #PushSend ) I’ve realized that the reflective nature of blogging feeds my teacher soul.

Last year I dropped blogging early in the school year because I was doing too much. And writing doesn’t come easy to me so my blogs were taking 1-2 hours to complete – I so admire those who type fast and write succinctly…can you school me?? Everything in my life was suffering and so blogging was the first (but not the last) thing to be purged.  Now as I look back at the year this summer I realize the rest of my school year lost its glitter.  Without the daily reflecting in writing via blogging and taking pictures of my kiddos while they were learning, the excitement fizzled and “Killer Routine” took over.  Now don’t get me wrong, I did reflect but it tended to be quick, on the fly and lacked depth;  I didn’t have a running commentary to look back on to review my progress, to relive the successes and to reminiscence about the changes that worked.

But I also realize I can’t keep up with blogging for each of the 180 days of the school year. So Blog 180 was out for me! As luck would have it, I learned through Twitter that during TMC17, Carl Oliver gave a keynote, Hitting the Darn ‘Send’ Button at TMC (Twitter Math Camp). He said just #PushSend; what you write doesn’t have to be perfect and what you have to say will resonate with someone. Most importantly for me I realized, the act of putting my thoughts to paper is an amazing growth experience.  All of this talk about blogging inspired me. So I gave myself permission to blog once a week. In my mind I call it my new initiative: Blog 36+… I’ll blog once a week (but maybe more).

The stars aligned because soon after TMC, the #MTBoS got busy, spearheaded by Julie @jreulbach to revive the #MTBoS Sunday Funday challenge . I wouldn’t call it a “challenge” but rather an “invitation to blog” every week on a pre-selected topic; this week’s is Goals. You then submit your blog post using this Google Form.  On Sunday, Julie will post the week’s list of amazing blogs to go read! I can’t wait to read all of the goodness my peers have to offer!!  But I also realize I need to contribute….so my blogging life begins anew!

2017-2018 Goals and Dreams – at least planning for Goals

We don’t start school until August 30th, so my school brain is still on vacation!  And I’m not sure I’m ready to have my goals set in “electronic stone” yet.  So instead, I’ll share my first steps in creating goals for a new school year.

Here’s how I’ve done my goal-setting for many, many years.  In early June, when I begin to get twinges of frustration and end-of-year-itis, I start my “Beginning of Year ‘##” folder.  I’ve been doing this now for over 25 years and I really love to see how some things have come and gone, while others have become my pedagogical “rocks.”


*Wish I could get into my room to take a photo of all of my previous folders!!

On the inside left flap I have lots of categories: Goals, Keep-Change-Try, Theme/Focus. These help me think through the big picture for my classroom.  Still adding thoughts as I read tweets and the many awesome blog posts shared this week!

  • Goals include student, professional and personal goals for the year…these are actually the final culmination of the other things.
  • Keep-Change-Try is just that, a running list of what I want to keep from my past practices, change or revise for the next year, and new things to try because they sound so promising.
  • Theme/Focus is the catch phrase that encapsulates all of the above thinking, especially the goal.  Usually a word or phrase that I post in big letters.

On the inside right flap I have lots of focuses that support the Goals and Theme: Engagement, Climate-Relationships, Retention, SBG, Technology, and Procedures.

  • Engagement helps me think through authentic engagement experiences rather than “fun” activities that don’t move students’ learning forward.
  • Climate-Relationships is a new focus for me this year.  Although student evaluations say I do a great job at this, my personal perspective is that I need to work at this better to connect with EVERY student.
  • Retention includes thoughts about how to insure long-term retention. This became a goal for our department last year (which I was so happy about – cartwheels in the aisles) so there was so much more collaboration around retention and how to help students with it.
  • Standards Based Grading (SBG) is also a new addition, although I have been reading and thinking about it for a few years. I’ve found some good resources online, but don’t have any face-to-face colleague to share and reflect with…yay for Twitter.  I am getting some help there.
  • Technology has been an ongoing focus since I can remember!  It is so fun to see how much technology has evolved over the years as well as how my practice in including it has changed so dramatically.  And the use of technology has grown from just a tool to a learning-enhancing opportunity for students if used thoughtfully.
  • Procedures is the last focus this year. I have been at this a long time, but every year some procedures need to change, mostly to keep my sanity and to make my classroom more studentcentric (is that even a word?!). Things that “bug” me in June are procedures crying out to be changed in August.

Already today, because of tweeting and reading blogs, my lists are expanding and evolving.  So what are your goals and dreams for 2017-2018? Can’t wait to hear about them (and maybe revise mine based on your amazing thoughts) so just #pushsend!!

Should I Start Up Again? Or I Need More Personalized PD

It has been a very long time since I posted my last blog, and recently I realized I’ve been missing the deep reflection it provided.  Starting up again has been a constant brain-tickle, but WOW what a time commitment!!

Then, just this morning while on Twitter, @druinok was also lamenting the loss of connection that blogging gives.  She shared that she had just made a post (and then another in the same day) at her site:  Check it out because she is an amazing teacher and virtual colleague!!  She even put out 4 ideas that I want to share (is that proper etiquette?) because they reflect where I have been these last few months.

  • Engage in Twitter at least once per week.
  • Read more blog posts.
  • Blog.  I need to be vulnerable and allow myself to share those same days.
  • Read professionally.

That was the push I needed.  Maybe I won’t do the daily posting (I tend to write too much and so spend too much time “perfecting” my grammar and prose…I guess that comes with being a math teacher rather than a language arts teacher: I lack the natural verbose style!  So some thoughts around these 4 goals:

  1. About a month ago, I hit the Twitter app button on my phone after not having looked at it for 6 months – does time fly or what?!  I felt like a small rowboat afloat in the Pacific ocean with no land in sight.  I had no idea what anyone was talking about, what the current big issues in math education were, and felt like no one would remember who I was….not that they knew before, but at least I felt a part of the twitter community.  I was embarrassed and flummoxed about what to share…did I really have anything worthwhile?  But over the course of a few week, I followed treads, I “liked”  and then began to “responded.”  I even got a small back-and-forth with the Dan Meyer, can you believe it?!  So I’m back at being addicted in a good way.  I particularly like to follow @druinok, @mathequalslove, @gwaddellnvhs, @bobloch ‏and #mtbos
  2. Again, about a 6 weeks ago (oh was that midwinter break?! when I had time to reflect and hunger for new ideas), I went to my blogroll and began clicking.  I was saddened by how many were gone or hadn’t posted in a long while…but of course I hadn’t either, so look who’s talking?  But it was great to even go back and reread posts and through each blogger’s personal sharing I found I was craving more.  I really like to go to blogs because ideas are delved into more deeply, the activity is explained in more detail and often there are resources shared.  It would be great to have a connection between the short “teasers” of Twitter coupled with the “deep dive” of blogs.  These are some of my regular go to blogs: statsteachermathcoachblog, mathequalslove, Continuous Everywhere But Differentiable NowhereM^3(Making Math Meaningful) and
  3. Begin blogging…well, there’s no better time than the present!
  4. There are so many books I want to read, but the summer is filled with my non-school hobbies as well as reading for pleasure.  I have a few professional tomes I’ve already bought and are sitting in my Kindle reader. Here are ones I hope to dive into: Statistics Done Wrong by Alex Reinhart, Creating Cultures of Thinking by Ron Ritchhart and finish Make It Stick by Peter Brown and Instant Relevance by Denis Sheeran.  What are you planning to read this summer?

Quite a list, quite a manifesto, right?!  I hope you will join me in adding depth to your professional development. Help me to stick to it!  Add comments, tell me how you have engaged in social media, what new approach will you take to your own professional growth?  We all need inspiration and comradery…join in the fun!  Let the blogging begin!

Day 101: Logs in Life Peer Review

My precalculus students completed a project on logs and logistics function in real world.  Before break, they signed up for a topic where logs or logistic functions are used. Students signed up for two possible topics and referenced them with an online site, which they submitted through a Google Form. Since Google Forms are time stamped, I able to use a first come, first served approach to topic assignment. I allowed up to 3 people to select the same topic, but after that, they got their second choice. Out of two classes, I only had 4 students that needed to determine a new topic.


Here is a brief synopsis of what was required:

THE TASK: The end product of your webquest will be a BROCHURE describing what you have learned about your chosen application of logarithms. • Brochure style (tri-folded) • Typed in your own words • Description and history of the application (e.g. “what is a decibel?” and “who invented the Richter scale?”) • Description of mathematics used in calculations – specifically logarithms with an example • Description of at least one career in which this application is used • At least one relevant graphic Citation of other websites used beyond the ones given (just list the url)

Students submitted both a physical copy and an electronic one.  I created groups of brochures with different topics and none created by a particular group member.

Today they did the peer review of the brochures, again using a Google Form.  I used radial buttons for the rubric part of the assessment. There was also a required comment section. I asked students to give both a positive comment about an intellectual aspect of the topic presentation and a constructive criticism. Part of their grade is their review of their peers and their peers’ review of their pamphlet.  You could have heard a pin drop.

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We had 10 minutes left in class, so I tried something on the fly…never know how that will go. I asked the groups to discuss and determine the most interesting brochure. They then passed that one on to the next group.  Maybe this will be part of the whole process next year.

Day 100: Getting Ready for T3 in Orlando

I am sooooo excited.  Once again I am heading to a Texas Instruments International Conference this year in Orlando, Flordia.  As a TI Regional Instructor, I’ve run enough week-end workshops, attended enough PDs and helped out in other ways to earn a free round-trip air fare and hotel lodging for the 5 days!  Since I will be presenting my Precalculus Folder Activity, I get a free registration!  Whoot-whoot!  I learn so much at these conferences. I think the T3 conferences have such great sessions and opportunities for collaboration with teachers from around the world as well as around the country. Love, love LOVE it!

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The downside is prepping for a sub for 3 days.  In my precalculus classes, not so bad as I will have them complete a Mathematics of Finance packet where they explore Present and Future interest situations.  I usually have them do an online exploration of these rates by “shopping” for a home and then determining the going interest rate and their monthly payment.  Also have them “invest” in an annuity to see how much they can make over a given time period.  Since I won’t be there, I decided it would be too much for a “non-math” sub to handle.  The packet still gives them some interesting situations to explore.

AP Stats is a different situation!  They will have their test on confidence intervals on Wednesday, but then we are starting in on significance tests.  So many places to develop misconceptions even when I’m there. So I spent almost 2 days over our mid-winter break just prepping for my absence in stats.  I needed to re-write handouts and activities so my neo-statisticians could proceed without me.  I also hunted for videos that would accurately explain concepts like p-values and alpha-levels, processes like writing hypotheses, and the general rationale behing a significance test.  I think they will be in good virtual hands.

Day 99: Applying Technical Writing

Today we begin confidence interval for means in earnest in AP statistics. Yesterday after the activity, the students explored what a t-distribution was via this Geogebra document and looked at how to determine a critical t* value from a table as well as from the Nspire. (sidenote: although we do find values using tables occasionally, I emphasize using their calculator to find these values as well as the area probabilities…its all about saving time on the AP exam, so training them now will help them to be comfortable using their calculator later during all of the inference procedures).

Today, we did our first write-up of a t-interval for means, emphasizing the conditions that need to be met.  I am so glad that I “over-emphasize” these when they are learning about sampling distributions.  Of course, we write one up together so they understand what needs to be shown and stated in the inference procedure.


As I’m writing this post, an idea popped into my head: a procedure wall!  Just like the word walls used in algebra and geometry classes but with the proper name of the procedure.  I’ll have a way to cover when they are taking an assessment.  I can use sentence strips, and maybe color-code for proportions vs. means vs. others.  Will have to ruminate on this a little more to flesh out the details…look for a future post on this!

Day 98: More CI Writing

So, yesterday, most of the groups got the statements sorted. Today they will create a poster of the incorrect statements and write underneath each one what the error is.  I found a great explanation by Bock about the types of interpretation errors with examples and explanations.  My students used this document to help guide them.  And they eventually were able to identify correct and incorrect statments, but also were able to articulate what made interpretations incorrect.  YAY!

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Day 97: Technical Writing Practice

I’m sure you’ve never experienced this: things seemed to be going well until you assess, and then you find out you were in dream land!  That happened to me after the last mini-quiz I gave my AP statistics students on confidence intervals.  Although I gave them the sentence stems in their notes followed by whole class writing practice as well as individual practice, the assessment showed that they really didn’t know what they were talking about…no real surprise!

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So I spent last night putting together a card sort on confidence interval statements around the Pink Sweetheart conversation heart activity.  I created 16 statements, some written correctly but using different wording, some incorrect, some based on the statements the kids wrote on their assessments.  They first had to read through the statements as a group.  Then they sorted into correct and incorrect statments. Thats as far as we got today.  More tomorrow…..

Day 95: MC Mondays

Late last year, via Twitter, a discussion revolved around how to give AP Stats students more and regular experience with multiple choice questions.  One idea put forth by @druink was to have an MC Monday experience.  She shared a form she created and asked for input and collaboration around the viability of the form: number of questions, student reflection, etc.

I wanted to use the form but tweak it some more to allow me to track both general student progress as well as progress in the four strands of the AP Stats curriculum: Exploring data, Generating data, Probability and Inference methods.  Part of this is to complete my teacher evaluation student growth component, but also to help me see if there are areas that need revisiting later in the course (of course, there always are, but in the past it was hit or miss rather than data driven).

One hindrance for tracking via components was how to identify each question easily so it didn’t become a time-suck.  In addition, I needed a reasonably easy way to generate questions that were essentially at the AP level. So my department purchased a new ExamView test generator for our text which already had the questions identified by the AP standards.  I also found that GradeCam can assign a learning target to questions. Unfortunately, the available targets were CCSS or state standards; luckily, in the CCSS there are “almost matching” statements around the 4 big strands, so I could label questions. Because I have been using GradeCam for unit tests as well as Midterms and Finals, students are very comfortable with the process of scanning their answers for me.


So today was the first day of trying out the process and I think it went great!  Now I’ll be able to track long-term retention of the key ideas as well as monitor individual students’ growth (or lack there of).


Day 94: Class Discourse Sparked by Navigator Quick Poll

One of the things I’d like to use more often in my Precalculus classes are multiple choice questions to promote class discussion.  Today as part of the opener I gave my first MC question.  Fairly straight forward question because I wanted to get the kiddos logged into the Nspire Navigator, which we haven’t done for a while.  The students wrote down on their Opener-Exit slip the answer along with any calculations they needed to do to determine the best choice. Then the Navigator, through a Quick Poll, collects their answers. Once I stop the poll,  I can project the responses in a bar chart.


As you can see, there were two popular answers.  I asked my students in their groups to discuss their choices and try to determine which one was actually the correct answer along with supplying a reasoned argument for their group’s choice.  Some great conversations!  I then resent the Quick Poll to see if they could arrive at the correct answer without my confirming the answer.

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