Sunday, June 14, 2015

Feeling Accomplished: Reflecting on a Successful Year

This year I have finished my 3rd year of teaching 8th Grade Common Core Math.  For the last three years I have been creating all of the 8th Grade Math curriculum.  After reflecting on my lessons regularly, I have been tweaking and changing the curriculum over the last three years trying to find a way to pace the concepts so that I can fit everything in.  I have also put a lot of thought into how to teach these concepts to my students effectively.  Last year (my second year) was a good year. The rearranged pacing was exactly what was needed. Even though it was a good year, I knew that there were still changes that needed to be made.

 Last summer I spent the entire summer doing a lot of reflecting after going through the experience of the SBAC Field Test.  I knew that my curriculum was on the right track but there were things I needed to do to make sure that my students were prepared for the CAASPP Summative Test this year.  I knew that I needed to do more to get them to the next level.  

All of my hard work and reflection paid off. The CAASPP Summative Preliminary Results are out and I am so excited.  All of my students' perseverance and hard work paid off. My students tried so hard on this test and really wanted to do well.  I know that they will be super excited too.... :o)

Success One: My Students' Interactive Math Notebooks
I have been using my Interactive Math Notebooks for a long time, but this year one of my goals was to teach my Math 8 students how effectively use their Interactive Math Notebooks.  In the past it was really difficult to get Math 8 students to utilize their IMN effectively. But this year it was one of my goals and I am so excited that I finally did it.  I was able to teach my Math 8 students to use their IMN effectively as a reference to support their learning. :o)

I think the biggest reason my IMNs were a success with my Math 8 students this year is because I emphasized how important they were from Day One with my motivational talk and giving them "A Letter to my Students" to put as the first page of their IMN, (so it would be the first thing they saw every time they opened their notes).  And another reason my IMNs were so successful this year was my color-coded guided notes.  I insisted that the students color-code exactly like the notes I was giving. The color-coding helped the students see the connections when they used their notes as a reference.  I also insisted that when we were done taking both sides of the notes that the students put the notes into the prongs of their notebooks. By the second quarter the students understood my procedures and expectations for their IMN. :o)

In many of the pictures that I have posted, it is evident that the students truly utilized their IMN. And the best part was, that at the end of the year 100% of my Math 8 students still had their IMNs. This confirms that my Math 8 IMNs were a success for sure... :o)

Success Two: My "Solve It, PROVE It" Daily Warm-up: 

Last year I realized that I really needed to find a way for my students to get comfortable with "Explaining" and "Justifying" their reasoning.  One of my new ideas that I came up with over the summer for this year was my "Collaborative Team" daily warm-up: "Post It, PROVE It", which evolved into my "Solve It, PROVE It".  And OMG, this was by far my #1 idea. To see the growth of my students' academic discussions and written explanations was amazing.  

I told my students from the beginning that I thought of this idea to help them learn to "Justify their Reasoning" and to prepare them for the CAASPP Summative Assessment.  My students never complained.  They eagerly solved and proved my complex problems collaboratively the entire year (even after they completed the CAASPP Summative Assessment).

Here are some examples of my "Solve It, PROVE It" daily warm-ups and examples of the students' collaborative explanations. 

These are examples of my student's individual responses to support their answers. Throughout the year I could see tremendous growth in their verbal and written explanations. 

Looking at the growth my students made in their reasoning and justifying in math I can see that my collaborative "Solve It, PROVE It" was what truly made the difference. Definitely a keeper. :o)

Success Three: My Collaborative Teams

I have previously blogged in detail about my "Collaborative Teams" in my Math 8 classes. This year my Math 8 periods are only 50 minutes, which goes really fast.  I have to get a lot of concepts in in such a short amount of time and I have found that my "Collaborative Team" structures has been extremely beneficial for my Math 8 students. This year I have put an emphasis on the students' math discussion and justifying their reasoning, which is done collaboratively.

My students are learning more than ever this year because of my classroom structure and the emphasis I put on the collaborative team discussion.  The most successful part of my "Collaborative Teams" is not only the "Team Task" but also doing the whole class practice problems with recorder/reporter.  Because only one student has a whiteboard, it forces the rest of the team to discuss to help the recorder/reporter (solve/explain) each practice problem. This rotates and each "Team Member" is recorder/reporter repeatedly throughout the lesson.    

I know that my "Collaborative Teams" are effective and I have the structures and procedures that I need in place. Next year I want to take it to the next level and really focus on deeper mathematical discourse.  :o)

Success Four: My Students' Growth Mindset
Another one of my goals for this year was to teach my students to "Persevere Through Struggle".  I told them from Day One that "Learning is not Easy" but I would help them to not only "Persevere" but that I would teach them to "Embrace" that "Struggle".  It was not easy for any of us... There were days when it was tough... But I too "Persevered" and continued to encourage and motivate... And in the end it was worth it for all of us... :o)

Here are some of the ideas that I used this year that were super effective.
My mid-year "Sticky Note" motivational poster.

My student's "Letter to Myself" Reflections every quarter.

My "Collaborative Team" hashtag posters. (These stayed on the wall all year)

I will for sure use all of these ideas next year because I know that they worked.  I have some new ideas for next year that I can't wait to try.  :o)

Success Five: My Structured 1:1 iPads in Math
I have blogged and tweeted a lot about my iPads and Math this year and I know that I have created some engaging and effective lessons for my students.  Next year we will be going to "Blocked" Math Periods, which is awesome because I will finally have more time with my students.  This also awesome because now I can go more 1:1 with my regular math class.  I am going to "Mash" the structure of my "collaborative Teams" in my Math 8 with the structure of my "Self-Paced" 1:1 iPads in Math Support.

Overall I am extremely elated at how my hard work paid off this year.  I am keeping many of my great ideas, but I am always learning and always discovering ways to take it to the next level.... I already have a list of new ideas for next year.... I am glad to have the summer to bring those ideas to fruition... 

Thanks for stopping by and checking out my blog.... Follow me this summer as I blog about my new ideas for next year.... :o)


  1. These are great strengths happening. Your class seems super fun and structured and I'd LOVE to see a video of how you teach without textbooks/worksheets. I've always been intrigued by that. I still consult mine #lame

    Anisa @ Creative Undertakings

    1. Thanks... :o) I have never taught out of a textbook.... I love creating my own curriculum...

      I will try to take videos next year. It's possible because I do a lot of Team Tasks and practice problems on a Flipchart in collaborative teams and recorder/reporter style...