First Week Highlights

I just finished the first week of school and looking back, it was one of my favorite starts to the year. Normally I’m not satisfied with my first day of school activities and either feel that they’re too cheesy or too boring. This year, however, I finally feel really happy with how the first day went because I had a high level of engagement from my students and the rest of the week followed in the same way. So, to recap the week, here are a few highlights, including many protocols for certain activities that can be used throughout the year and not just the first days of school!

Monday (first day of school part 1): After scouring the internet for great first day of school activities, I was so excited to see that my favorite blogger started school a week before me…so I could thankfully steal one of her brilliant ideas!! I used her idea of having students complete a “quiz” about me as they entered the room. Most of them did not know any of the answers, but I brought in some hints like a water bottle from Trinity University which was the answer to the first question. So, looking around the room helped students complete the quiz and familiarize themselves with the classroom. After about five minutes, we checked the quiz. I realized they were all so much more engaged in learning about me because they wanted to be right (and win a prize) as opposed to previous years when I just told them about myself right away. There were cheers, claps, and sighs as they found out each of the answers with a Powerpoint I created showing corresponding pictures. After that, I had them create their own quiz, just like the Math=Love blogger. I decided to make it number answers only for the first few classes, but realized many of the answers were really hard for me to guess correctly and I would be learning about their lives wrong. So, for my afternoon classes I let them do word answers or numbered answers. I loved completing their quizzes; It gave me an insight into who they were and it gave me an authentic chance to practice their names on the second day of school by passing back papers (I’m still so bad at names…gotta keep practicing!!) In almost every class, several students asked about the quizzes with questions like, “did you do our quizzes yet…I can’t wait to see if you got mine right…” Clearly, this was a memorable activity for many and not boring…success! 🙂

Monday (first day of school part 2): After completing our quizzes, I explained our last activity: 31-derful. I found this activity from another favorite blogger: “Everybody is a Genius.” I displayed the same instructions she did and then let them go for it in groups. I loved seeing and hearing their thought processes with their groups. It gave me an insight into their problem solving and communication skills. Every class had 1-2 groups complete the puzzle and the other group were super close! Just like the activity above I knew this one was successful because on Tuesday (and Wednesday) several kids came into class asking if they could play the game again saying it was so fun!


Tuesday (part 1): I saved setting rules and going over the syllabus for the second day because I didn’t want to rush through either one and I knew the first day class times would be shortened. Normally, when going over my own rules and setting classroom norms I have done a chalk talk. I like chalk talks, but students don’t understand the value of silence during this activity, and it’s hard for me to facilitate without saying to stay quiet every 5 seconds when they are hyped up from the first days of school. So, I thought I’d save introducing chalk talks for later in the year…or maybe one of my fabulous colleagues will do one before me and be better at keeping them quiet :). Instead, I did a four corners activity to facilitate setting classroom norms. I loved how this went for several reasons: It got students up and moving, but in a structured way. Also, as we discussed agreements and disagreements, students were standing, which at first I thought might be a little chaotic, but in every class, they actually listened really well while standing…somehow it made them more self aware to who was talking and what they were saying. I also liked hearing students voice their opinions about how they learn best. I think students felt safe sharing how they felt because they often had someone else beside them that felt a similar way.

Tuesday (part 2): After we set norms and before we went over the syllabus, we jumped into a discussion of our summer assignment (a reflection about their own math understanding after reading the freshmen assigned book, Bamboo People). With the suggestion from a fabulous colleague, I used a Microlab protocol to facilitate discussion. This went well because it gave all students a chance to speak while keeping the conversation flowing in a productive manner.

Wednesday: We started the day with a WODB warm up that I’m going to do this every Wednesday…I love this activity! With it, students had a chance to communicate their thinking while producing some really interesting debates. In geometry, I used “shape 5” which gave students some new language and facts that they will be using later in geometry such as a dodecagon, polygon requirements, and composite figure. In algebra, I used “number 1” and a couple students gave an argument for something I didn’t even see…9 didn’t belong because all the others made 7 when you added together their digits. After the warm up, geometry played TGT to review algebraic concepts before moving on to geometry (I’ve posted about this game before). All students were engaged in this game because it was competitive, but safe. I think having students choose their comfort level with the material helped them feel at ease and confident in their competition teams. In Algebra we completed a KWL chart with a preview to their first quiz. I think this helped set the tone for why they need to know what they will be learning the next few weeks. Then, we reviewed patterns by doing this lesson. It was a great, low prep activity that helped students review patterns and formulate their own thinking without me directly telling them the sequence. The next couple days we did some book work from our Springboard textbook. I am really liking the reading required from the textbook, but I realized I need to work on my facilitation of teaching from a textbook (this is my first year directly using one). I’m not going to use it every single day, but definitely more than I ever have in the past because I think it is a really good resource for STAAR type of materials.

Friday: After taking some notes and doing practice on Thursday about points, lines, and planes, geometry played this sketch game. It was great to hear students communicate their learning again to each other. Many were saying the process was so hard, but kept at it and saw that the more specific they were, the more accurate their partner’s drawing would be. Algebra had their first “standards check” before moving on to non linear patterns. Geometry will have one Monday. I think the format of the SBG checks are going to be really good for myself and students. I especially love having students know exactly what their learning goal is and having them self assess their learning.

One last highlight: So far, students are doing really well with my grading breakdown of homework/classwork counting for 0%. I know it’s only been one week of school, but students seem less concerned about what counts for a grade and whenever I assign a task to complete, they all jump into it knowing it’s for them to practice their learning…hopefully the rest of the year follows the same way!!

I’m so thankful for all the great resources I’ve found through other blogs and am ready to take on the second week with a little finalizing of plans tomorrow…for now, time to relax! 🙂


Chicago Trip and Math

My husband and I just got back from a great trip in Chicago to celebrate our first year anniversary. I loved every part of our trip from the delicious food, enjoying a no-hitter game at Wrigley Field, walking the city, seeing iconic sights, and so much more. Even though we were there for absolutely nothing to do with work, I couldn’t help but become inspired by the math of the city. I decided to jot down my notes here so I don’t forget!

1. Chicago Architectural Tour: This was one of my favorite things we did. It was a 90 minute guided boat tour that took us along the Chicago River as we learned about the history of the city through the architecture. I definitely want to show my geometry students pictures from this and hopefully convince them through photos that math is truly used in professions, appreciated in everyday life, and highly sought after for beauty and meaning in a city. It was incredible to stand and look up at the enormous buildings as I visualized what it would be like to build one. I also found the history behind each structure to be really interesting from a math mindset. One of the first things our tour guide reminded us about was the Egyptians were very influenced by geometry in their early architecture. As we went along the river, we saw the transformation from early styles such as Gothic, Renaissance, and Neoclassical, to modern day styles. Some key buildings are below. IMG_0778The first building is the John Hancock building which I found really interesting because we learned that the X’s were intentionally structured on the outside of the building as a way to provide the building stability, allowing it to have no poles throughout the inside, and thus giving it a completely open concept.The second was a very iconic apartment and multi-functioning building used in several movies (I still need to find out what movies…but I know there was one where a car crashes out of the building and falls into the river). The circular shape meant a lot to the architect, Goldberg, with it’s aerodynamic features, lack of any corner rooms (often thought of as reserved for high society), and enabled all rooms to be centrally located to the center. IMG_6743 (1)Next, was a triangular shaped building which was again, designed intentionally, to allow residents to have more lakefront views than a square or rectangular shaped building.IMG_6766Then, there was one that was built right over a train and so the builders were tasked with how to safely design such a building. They designed it narrow enough at the base such that the train could pass by it, but then it will become wider as it goes up with the use of triangular frames.Displaying IMG_6760.JPG

Finally, the last one was really aesthetically pleasing and it wasn’t until our tour guide explained that it was designed as a map of the river with the red feature symbolizing a “you are here” spot, that I really appreciated the creativity and brilliance behind the design. 

2. The Ferris wheel at Navy Pier: While waiting in line for the Ferris wheel, I couldn’t help but notice the geometry behind the huge structure. I will definitely show these pictures to my students, and hopefully I can think of some cool project and/or investigation we can do with circles, arc length, area of a sector, etc. and Ferris wheels. Displaying IMG_6849.JPGDisplaying IMG_6829.JPG

3. The Bean (Cloud Gate): This is one of the most well known areas of Chicago and I’d love to learn more about the shape and structure of it. When I show this to my students, I’m curious to hear the words they would use to describe its shape. I think there are also some interesting reflective properties my students and I could talk about. For example, when you walk in the middle of the structure you can see the same reflection 4 times (I tried to capture this in the picture below.) My husband and I had fun finding ourselves in the mirrors and then I suddenly realized we could be using words like translated and reflected…I think this would be a cool example to show students when we discuss these terms. I think proportions and similarity could also be referenced with this structure when you think about how your image changes depending on where you stand in relation to it.

Thanks, Chicago, for an awesome trip and lots of learning!!