Weekly Warm Ups to Engage Students

I gave this PD at Curriculum Day for our teachers with the goal goal of giving teachers ideas for engaging students in warm-ups each day. The various approaches of problem solving, reflective thinking, and visual learning challenges students to think creatively. Each day is a different theme that differentiates for students and will help hook students at the beginning of class. Click the links and read below for resources.

Warm Up Training Powerpoint

Word doc Warm up Template

Below is the explanation of warm ups, but you can find the Word Doc here.

Mental Math Monday

  • This day is great because it requires little to no prep on your part. The goal of this day is to simply get kids thinking about math and working on building their arithmetic skills.
  • We suggest just calling arithmetic steps out loud and having students follow along to what the answer is in their head (i.e. start with the number 4 and have students add 2, then multiply by 3, subtract 12, divide by 3, add 15, and then record their answer).
  • The level of difficulty can also be adjusted easily for the level of class you teach or the topic you are covering. For example, if you are in a Geometry class working with right triangles you might add in squaring or square rooting numbers.  Another example could be in a Pre-Cal class having students do the trigonometric values from the unit circle.
  • Depending upon the level of difficulty you are suggesting with the problems we would recommend keeping it to under 5 problems that way the warm up does not take up too much class time.
  • An “I chart” or “X factor” can be used in an Algebra I/II class to help students start working on factoring skills.

Think it Through Tuesday

  • This day is about having the students work on problems that require more thought or comparison and estimation.
  • The website, http://www.estimation180.com/ has problems on estimation already created for you.
  • This is also a good day to put up a really challenging problem over the topic you are discussing in class or have discussed in class to allow students to try and work their way through the problem without the stress.

Which One Doesn’t Belong Wednesday

  • This day is about getting students to compare given information and practice writing justifications in a math classroom. The students will be given 4 choices and be asked to determine which image does not belong with the others.  The students are then required to write an argument as to why that image does not belong using complete sentences.
  • The website, http://wodb.ca/shapes.html has already created several examples for you to use in your classroom.
  • The students really enjoy this day because it allows them to choose an answer that cannot be counted wrong provided they create a valid argument for their answer choice using complete sentences.
  • This theme also lends itself to topics you are covering in class currently or as an introduction to a new topic. It can let you know what information students already know and what they are familiar with.

Throwback Thursday

  • This day is exactly what it says, a throwback. It is intended as a day to either put up a problem over previously taught material to ensure that students still recall that information or to check in with students on the week.
  • The problem you choose to put on the board can be something from the beginning of the school year, last year, or even last week. One way to use this day is to put up a problem over something taught that they will be building on with the lesson that day. For example, if you are teaching the substitution method in your Algebra class today, then you might want to put a problem about solving a multi-step equation.  Another example might be to have a warm up problem on factoring or simplifying radicals if you are teaching students to solve quadratic equations by completing the square in your Algebra 2 class.
  • If you choose to check in, consider asking questions like “what is one thing you learned this week” or “what is something you are proud of.” You can students write these on half sheets of paper or notecards. For us, we allowed math and non-math answers as they wanted to tell us things they learned in German class or how they won their Friday night game. They are a great way to learn more about your students and check in with them academically and socially.

Favorite No Friday

  • This day is designed to incorporate the strategy of Favorite No shown to us last Curriculum Day. The teacher puts a problem on the board along with their favorite wrong answer they received from a student.
  • This is a great way to review common mistakes with the class and have them practicing higher level thinking from Bloom’s Taxonomy.
  • The students enjoy finding the mistakes that others (or they) have made.
  • This can be your favorite no from the last quiz, test, homework assignment, or even last year’s STAAR test.

These warm up themes allow you to have structure at the beginning of each class period that do not require a lot of prep on your part.  It also gives you the freedom to choose what you would like the material of the warm up to cover.  The students enjoy knowing what class will look like every day and that each day is a little varied from the day before.

Follow me on Instagram: @taplinsteaching

Follow me on Twitter: @AshleyPTaplin


Quiz Quiz Trade

It’s been a busy start to school and I haven’t written in a while, but I’m back at it tonight. I wanted to share a quick formative assessment you can use with your students that a teacher on my team shared with us. This is meant to be used with something that students can do and say quickly. We used it to check student’s understanding of Functions and Relations after teaching/reviewing it the day before. My coworker, Nicole, created cards of graphs, coordinate points, tables, and mappings that were either a function or relation with the answer on the back (thanks for making these, Nicole). We gave our students one card each and explained the directions:

1. You will show the picture side of your card to another classmate and ask, “is this a function or relation?”

2. If your partner gets it right, they will ask you the same thing about their card.

3. If you’re right, trade cards and go quiz someone else in the room. If either of you get it wrong, be sure to explain why before trading cards and moving on.

4. Your goal is to quiz everyone in the room before time runs out!

Honestly I was a little nervous of doing this activity because I have some very active classes, but this helped start our class with a kinesthetic activity to get some energy and talking out in a productive way. We did this as a quick 4 minute warm up, so it was something they could stay on task with that was different than a traditional paper to pencil warm up…the timer that I displayed on the board also helped regulate it for my more active classes. I also would encourage you as a teacher to play along…I got a card and played with them which helped me hear which students knew the concept and which needed more intervention on the topic.

Happy quiz-quiz-trading!!

Thoughts from the Semester

As the first semester winds down, there are several things I have been reflecting on in my mind. I spent one class period of semester exams organizing a drawer full of manipulatives I created this year and it feels great to be clutter-free…so, I think organizing my thoughts about this semester in a post will double that feeling. Before my mind goes to winter break, here’s what I’ve been thinking…

  1. SBG Grading: I have continued to do a lot of research on this topic as I find my right path in standards based grading and I have a lot I feel confident about but also still have a lot of growing to do in this area. 
    • Disaggregating Quizzes: The main thing I am proud of that has worked really well is disaggregating my quizzes. Each quiz I give might be on one standard or it might be on multiple. Instead of giving one grade on the multiple standard quizzes, I give a grade for each standard. This has helped students (and myself) pinpoint exactly what students are mastering and what they still need to work on. Students come in to correct and retake only that portion and are using the language of the standard when they need to retake.
    • Self-Evaluation: I also like having students reflect on how they think they did on each quiz. I made this much simpler than my original plans (1. because it took up too much space, and 2. it saved time). At the bottom of each quiz is a simple question, how well do you think you mastered the standard ____________ of of a 1, 2, 3, 3.5, 4. Then there is a space for any comments for me to read and respond to. This adds an extra piece for them to re-read the standard, self evaluate, and provides a communication tool between me and the student.
    • Two areas of growth that I need to continue to work on are disaggregating tests and possibly being more standardized with my grading. I reverted back to 0-100 because it was easier for me and easier for students, but I still have thoughts about using a 4 point scale.
  2. I want to make reviewing for the Algebra 1 STAAR engaging and worthwhile for students. Sometimes when reviewing for several days (like for semester exams), I must admit, there are days where I feel like some students work and some students just waste time. I know if I don’t do a good job of planning the days, it will not be beneficial for students. I don’t want this to happen with STAAR review next semester. I have some stations I can use, I know I want to do a test taking strategies mini-lesson, and students need to continue to see past tested problems..but, in what ways can I make this enticing to students?! So…any ideas for standardized test prep is more than welcome here…leave a comment!
  3. I want to explore the Desmos activity builder more (https://teacher.desmos.com/). I saw this parabola activity on Twitter the other day and it looked really fun! It could be a great intro to quadratics for my Algebra 1 kids…or a follow up…I need to look into it more.
  4. I had an idea the other day while I was working with students on word problems and I realized students were reading from the middle of the sentence, jumping around to find key words, and then trying to answer the problem. As warm ups next semester, I need to include more lengthy problems and focus on reading strategies. I thought about starting out by covering up random parts of the sentences like they do in their minds and asking them to solve the problem…nearly impossible! Then with that hook, we can talk about more reading strategies to solve math problems throughout the following weeks…perhaps I can collaborate with our English teacher on the team.
  5. I planned a Julia Robinson Math Festival to be held at a local university for students at our school and a feeder middle school, but unfortunately we had to cancel it because of a huge flood back in October. We are rescheduling for February, but it is still not solidified and I just hope it can work out and be something extra for students to become more interested in math.
  6. I got accepted to present two sessions at CAMT, but soon after applying, I found out I was pregnant!! 🙂 🙂 With my due date only a couple weeks before the conference, I decided it was best to turn down the opportunity to present. I hope I can make it to the conference at least for a couple sessions in between baby time to continue learning this summer.
  7. Lastly, I want to continue to help my students become nicer and more thoughtful citizens. With bullying and hate so prevalent in this world, I as their teacher, want to instill a sense of kindness in my students that goes against high school stereotypes and promotes inclusiveness and compassion for others.

If you’ve gotten all the way to the end of this post, thanks for reading and I hope you have a wonderful holiday!!  


Mental Math Monday 

I must first dedicate this post to my mom. She first introduced me to mental math when I was in elementary school. As I tell my students, I used to have to do a series of mental math before I was allowed to eat dinner every night…I’m not sure that’s a true story, but it’s what I like to remember (and I like to tell my kids so they get a glimpse into my math loving family). So, in celebration of my mom, Monday warm ups in my class are dedicated to mental math. In fact, last year, my mom and I had a competition between my students and hers…unfortunately Skype didn’t work the day we planned for, so we did the competition separately…I think we should try again this year, what do you say, mom?! Rematch, 2016?? 

Anyways, I love doing mental math as a warm up and my students actually do, too. Ironically, when first introducing the idea to my students, there was a whole lot of whining…”Awww no calculators…no, I can’t do math in my head…but, it’s Monday.” So, after a little convincing that everything is going to be okay, my kids soon realized that they loved mental math more than they ever thought! As it creates a little friendly competition amongst each other and themselves, it also reinforces concepts like square roots and any other operations students have been studying, helps students grow their quick thinking algebraic skills, and reinforces their listening skills. 

Here’s how it works…ask students to clear off their desks…it’s all done in their heads and the less distractions the better. Tell students not to talk, not to say things like “wait, wait” or “ahh I lost it” (they will do that), because it’s all about listening and processing. Tell students when you are done, and only then, to raise their hands if they got the answer (mine tend to just blurt it out at the end which is okay sometimes, too, if you can’t control the excitement!) Call out a series of operations starting with a single number. I just make it up as I go and calculate in my head as I say it, but you can create the series if you want before and read it off. 

Example: take the number 25, add 5, divide by 3, double it, divide by 4, add 2, square it, add 3, subtract 10, divide by 2, subtract 1. 

You can get more or less complicated…throw in fractions, negatives, triple digits, ect. Today, I had my kids make up their own problems, ensuring they had operations that could be calculated in their heads and nothing ended  with something like 157 divided by 17. Then, I read a few of them out, and in some classes, several students volunteered to try calling the ones they created out to the class.

If you try it, have fun with it…kids get really into it as they race to get them all correct!