Sunday, January 24, 2016

These are a few of My favorite things:

I really hope that when you read the title to this post you sang it. You know the song from Sound of Music! Haha just me? Ok I'm gonna post about 3 of my favorite things as a teacher.

First favorite thing: Kahoot

"Kahoot! is a free game-based learning platform that makes it fun to learn" That's their wording when you Google Kahoot and I couldn't agree more. Kahoot is a website where you can make your own quizzes, discussions, or surveys.

I've only every created the quiz one. One of the reasons why I like this is that it provides immediate feedback so the students can see how they are doing- are they getting the questions right. Doing the same problems on a worksheet just doesn't provide that. Also at the end you can download the data from the quiz. Who got what questions right or wrong. Which questions they missed the most. Etc. To play you can either create your own Kahoot! as you see above- or you can search other teacher's public ones. When you're ready you launch it on your computer and project it onto an activeboard or just project it onto a screen (it's not important that the board be interactive because the students are interacting through their device). The students "play" by using a device that connects to the Internet- I let my students use their phones- but I always sign up for the iPad cart because not all of our students have access to smart phone. Once you launch it a PIN number pops up and the student type in the PIN to connect to your specific quiz. Then they can choose their name. I always make the rule that they must use their actual name I call them. If students try to use an inappropriate name you can kick them out of the game by clicking on their name.

I like this because students think it's really cool to be able to use their smart phones in class and I am always shocked how much it increases their willingness to do more practice problems. There are some downsides though. One is that on the quiz portion- it's timed and the longest you can give them is 120s or 2 min. This may be fine for a general ed class room, however it causes some anxiety and stress for my special education students who almost always need extra time. A way around that is to give them the questions before hand to work out. Another downside is there always seems to be that one student who realizes that by waiting and not answering, they can prevent the game from moving on and taking a long time. Any suggestions on how to deal with those students would be appreciated!

Second Favorite thing: Bullet Journal!

I was using something like this before I ever heard of it- a running to do list in a composition note book to try to keep on top of the 15 million things a special education teacher has to do in a week. I know that's only a few more things than the 14 million any other teacher has to do too. Now I am trying this method out. I keep all my notes and to do lists in this spiral notebook.

 Mainly I just like the quote and spiral works for me cause I can clip it open to the current week's to-do list. I use a system very similar to the one in the video. Although I don't find much use for the monthly calendar part as my school uses google calendar and I have a desktop calendar I use for that as well. I do use it for both personal and school related activities. I just really like it because personally if I don't write it down- it goes out of my brain into nothingness and it won't get done or I won't remember. I also like this method because it's very flexible and you can personalize it to fit your needs. This could be done in a regular planner, a 99 cent composition notebook, a cute spiral notebook. You could have 2, one for school and one for personal life. However you want it- you can do it. I'm still working out the kinks on what works best for me. I'll let you know how it goes. Below is what I've done so far.

 The bullets I use, as you can see to the left, are basically the same as the guy points out in the video. I love to color code so I came up with a key. However, I don't usually carry all those around with me so I've come to realize it wasn't that doable. However, I do like to high light my tasks from time to time so I can tell what I need to do for school, lacrosse, or personal at a quick glance. You can see what that actually looks like in the picture below.  As you can see, I mostly use this type of "journal" for a running weekly to do list. I also use it on the weekends to try to be more productive with my time.

If you have any ideas on how to make this work better for me or ways it works for you, please let me know. I love anything organization related!

Third Favorite Thing: My Keurig!

Disclaimer- not my actual Keurig
I know, I know- this is supposed to be a post about what's your favorite thing in your classroom. Well I have an office because I float classrooms and I can't tell you how awesome, and needed, it is to be able to come into work a bit earlier and fix my self a cup of coffee exactly like I like it. I need those few minuets to my self before school begins to mentally put my self in the right mind set. It's almost like meditation. Sitting drinking coffee checking personal emails, work emails, catching up on my favorite blogs, sometimes listening to books on tape, podcasts, etc. Every teacher deserves a little me time and I find mine before anyone gets to school through caffeine. Don't judge.

Monday, January 18, 2016

A monDay in my Life

So I tried really hard to write down everything I did last Monday for the #MTBoS blogging initiative. But alas, I'm a human and a teacher which means I got distracted about half way through and stopped writing stuff down. So the last half of this post is from memory. I will let you know when that happens, and I'm sure you'll be able to tell cause I think it gets less detailed and more general about what was going on. :-/ Hope it's not too long and boring. But here it goes:

Monday January 11th, 2016

5:50 am - My alarm on my phone goes off. I turn it off and go back to sleep

6:00 am- My alarm clock goes off and I hit snooze 4 times. Each snooze is 9 min long which means the last time I hit snooze is 6:36 am.

6:36 am - I jump out of bed. I have it timed down to the minuet. This is the latest I can stay in bed before I'm running later than I feel comfortable doing. The first thing I do is go to the bathroom (TMI?) then I make breakfast, which consists of me barely awake pouring cereal and almond milk into a bowl. Then I make my lunch for the day (spoiler- it's the same lunch every day). Then I get dressed, do my hair and make up and I'm out the door.

7:11 am - Getting in my car to drive to school. It's ~ 20 min drive.

7:25 am - Park in the teacher lot which is now like a million miles from the school due to construction.

7:30 am - Sign in the front office and check my box.

7:32 am - Deal with my dying Keurig to make my coffee. I need my coffee.

7:35 am - Chat with physics teacher on my hall about how my Keurig is dying and about how my sister's pregnancy is going. She had a rough Friday so the doctors put her on bed rest for the weekend and she wasn't going into work today too. She is also a special education teacher for the same district that I work in. Except she teaches 5th grade and I teach high school. Basically the same job ;).

7:45 am - Print stuff for 4th period resource chemistry today. Make sure it makes sense to put in the INB.

7:53 am - Schedule parent meeting for 8 am on Thursday.

7:55 am - Print IEP and re-determination for my meeting at 3:45 pm today.

7:57 am - Go make copies* of IEP and check that the social worker was invited and can come to the meeting this afternoon. * If the copy room isn't ridiculously full.

7:59 am- - Copy room wasn't full so I was able to make copies of my IEP and re-determination. Ran into the school's favorite sub and he told me that he was subbing for one of my co-teachers. Glad I found out before walking into the classroom.

8;17 am - Pack up my book bag with all the stuff I will need through 2nd period. Gear up to walk back out side to my 1st period class which is in the trailers. Brrrrrrrr it's gotten cold.

8:20 am - The bell rings to let students into the building. Say hi to geometry teacher as I leave towards the trailers.

8:30 am - The bell rings to start 1st period. Not that we can hear it in the trailers. We can barley here the announcements in the morning. My 1st period class is 11th grade Co-Taught Advanced Algebra. We finished up our introduction to imaginary numbers then moved on to adding, subtracting, and multiplying imaginary and complex numbers. Starting the Friday before we watched these really awesome videos introducing Imaginary numbers. Even I learned a bunch of new stuff about imaginary numbers! Always exciting when that happens. I've posted the first video in the series below. There are 9 videos all called "Imaginary numbers are real [part 1-9]"

9:25 am - bell rings to release kids from 1st period. My co-teacher and I have to watch the clock closely to make sure we are letting our kids leave at the right time, because, again, we don't hear the bells in the trailers. 

9:30 am - 2nd period begins. I have planning this period and usually this is dedicated to collaborative planning with my chemistry co-teacher and the other chemistry teacher. Before I go to meet them, I make copies for my 4th period resource chemistry class. 

9:45 am - Meet with chemistry teachers to co-plan. I have to get the video we are showing today because it was too big to put in our shared dropbox. I ask about the the timing of the class and decide not to have my kids do the quick write on their first impression of the project but rather have a discussion about it.

9:50 am - Get distracted talking to co-workers in the library on the way up to my office

9:56 - get back into my office and start working on getting my parent folder ready for my meeting today. This folder includes stuff like the draft IEP, parents rights, current grades, attendance or behavior issues, transcript, etc.

10:20 am - Bell rings to start 3rd period. I always feel like 2nd period goes by super fast, probably cause it's my planning and I'm usually doing work the whole time. 

10:23 am - I walk to my 3rd period. My office is right across the hall from my 3rd period class, so it's not imperative that I leave my office right after the bell rings.

10:25 am - Bell rings to start 3rd period. My 3rd period is also 11th grade Co-taught Advanced Algebra. This class is HUGE with 31 students. I know I'm in for a doozy of a period because my co-teacher isn't here. 

10:27 am - Take roll and chat with para and students about the upcoming national championship game.

10:30 am - Sub tried to get class started. I help by reminding students that I'm still here in class.

10:32 am - We hand out the work on adding, subtracting, and multiplying complex numbers. Some of this material is new so the sub tries to introduce it. Kids are totally lost.

10:35 am - I walk around and help students who are confused who actually want to do their work. This sadly is less than you'd think. Being a special education co-teacher usually means I'm demoted to about the level of a sub or student teacher, even though I'm there every day.

11:15 am - Bell rings to end 3rd period- FINALLY this class went by so slow! I ask one of my students who's dad played football for Clemson if he'd take a picture with me in our matching Clemson gear. (I went to Georgia Tech but I was most certainly rooting for the ACC!) (permission was granted to use this picture)

11:15 - 11:45 am - First lunch! I grab my traveling classroom (aka my cart) and my lunch  head for the elevator to go down 1 floor to the science hall.

11:35 am - Finish up lunch and chatting with science colleagues. Everyone was asking how my sister was doing! Go to class room to get things set up before students come in. I have to turn on the active board and plug my computer in. Get out their INBs and glue sticks. I started the year with like ~20 glue sticks and now I have like 3. 

11:41 am - Debate in my head whether I have time to run to the bathroom or not. Decide I do not have time.

*From Memory*

11:45 am - Bell rings to release first lunch. I stand in the hall way to greet my students as they enter but also to chat with the Bio teacher across the hall. 

11:50 am - Bell rings to start 4th period. This is my 10th grade resource chemistry class. It is a small group class offered for certain students who are being served under special education. The small group allows me to give more individualized instruction and meet their specific learning needs. However, it's not such a small small group. It has 13 students.

11:53 am- Have given several prompts for the students to start their warm up that is displayed on the board. This warm up reviews single displacement reactions and the reactivity series of metals. Once they have been working for ~5 min I go over the warm up as a class

11:59 am - Remind students about their HW#9 which is due Thursday before class on Texas Quest. (website through university of Texas that allows them to do their homework online). It is more practice on single displacement reactions and the reactivity series of metals.

12:00-12:18 pm - Watch a video on how the Katana is made in Japan and how chemistry knowledge effects what they use to make it out of. This is a lead in to the project we are about to start which is gonna ask the students to research metals and choose the best one to make their chosen product with. This video goes over very well with the students. 

12:18-12:25 pm - Discussion about their first reactions to the project prompt. What are they going to need to research.

12:25-12:45 pm - Each student is given a specific  "problem" (such as jewelry, cookware, sport equipment, etc) to read about and take notes on one row of a graphic organizer. 

12:45 pm - bell rings to release 4th period. I ask one of my other students, this time a rival fan for a picture. (permission was granted for this one too!)

12:50 pm - Bell rings to start 5th period. I teach a co-taught chemistry this period. We did nearly the same thing as my resource class did except my class didn't do a quick write on their first impression- we had a discussion.  The Katana video went over well with this period too.

1:40 pm - Bell rings to release 5th period. I maneuver the classroom and the halls with my cart to bring it back up to my office for my planning period!

1:45 pm - Bell rings to start 6th period. Got a lot of work to do to make sure I'm 100% ready for my IEP and re-determination meeting this afternoon. Also finished up an IEP for another meeting on Thursday and gave it to student to take home so parents could review the draft before the meeting.

2:35 pm - Bell rings to release 6th period. I'm always like crap how did 6th period go by so fast. I always have so much special education work to do that it really does make time fly. So I pack up quick and head down stairs back to the science hall.

2:40 pm - Bell rings to start 7th period co-taught chemistry. This class is also very large with 30 students. But we do basically the same thing we did in the previous class.

3:30 pm - Bell rings to release students from school. I discuss with co-teacher about anything that will be needed to be redone tomorrow because we can never get as far in 7th as we can in 5th. Too many kids with big personalities who always want to talk and have the attention. They are fabulous though. Some of them might even be comedians someday. 

3:35 pm - Run upstairs to grab everything I need for my meeting and head down to the central hub for ESS. The room that our co-chairs have their classes. 

3:45 pm - All the teachers and the student are here we are just waiting on the mother....

3:55 pm - Decide mother is not coming. Try calling her multiple times.

4:15 pm - Still called multiple times and left a message. Tried calling ex-husband who's information was still in the system. No luck. Will have to reschedule meeting. I hate when this happens. I did all that work for nothing.

4:25 pm - Still discuss IEP with student and other teachers tell him how he's doing in their classes and what he needs to do to improve.

4:30 pm - meeting is definitely called. Everyone is told it's ok for them to leave. I stayed to chat with the head of our department. Also remembered that I had had to go to the bathroom since after lunch. Finally got to go!

4:45 pm - Walk up to see what chemistry co-teacher/co-head lacrosse coach was doing.

5:00 pm - Decided we wanted to go get dinner before our spring sports preview thing at 6:30. We walked to the Chick Fil A that is just a block away. Tried not to sit too close to our students who were also eating and hanging out at Chick Fil A (not doing their HW I might add).

5:50 pm - Walk back to the high school. Release we need to update the lacrosse info with rescheduled games so we have something to hand out to any parents who may show up

6:15 pm - Make copies of lacrosse information.

6:30 pm - The booster club made a little ceremony of giving the yearly money to the athletic director and then we split up into each sport in a different room

6:40 pm - We only had 1 parent show up because we had already had an interest meeting back in November before Thanksgiving to set up a conditioning schedule. This parent's child also plays basketball so she missed the interest meeting.

6:55 pm - Done with the spring sports preview and walk back to my car! Let my friends who are supposed to come over to watch the national championship that I was heading home and they could meet me there whenever.

7:15 pm - Got home and friends bailed. Of course. Changed immediately into sweatpants!

8:30 pm-12:30 am - Watched the national championship game. Sad Clemson lost :(

Sunday, January 10, 2016

#MTBoS Blogging Initiative

I, Jessica Mayer, resolve to blog in 2016 in order to open my classroom up and share my thoughts with other teachers. I hope to accomplish this by participating in the 2016 blogging initiative hosted by Explore MTBoS.

I think this will be a good activity to participate in as one of my new years goals is to be a more effective worker. Part of being effective is reflecting on what you did and how it went. Also I would like to become more active in the global STEM community. I think one of the greatest strengths we have as educators is our willingness to share with and learn from one another.

**In full disclosure, I totally stole the top part of this post from my Favorite MTBoS blogger Sarah Hagan.**

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Week 1 Down

First Day of School Selfie! Cameo from the new principal (bottom left)!!
We started school Aug 3rd. I totally planned on blogging this weekend about my first week of school. Oops! Real life got in the way! Pretty common for me as I will make any excuse to not have to write... Which basically means I will choose not to write if given an option.

One of the things I really want to work on this year is to use my planning period more efficiently and effectively. So far I'm doing alright this year. The only hard thing is that we have odd block day on Wednesdays and even block day's on Thursdays. I only have planning 2nd and 6th period so that means I don't get planning on Wednesdays. Last Thursday I felt like I was scrambling to do everything that popped up that I couldn't do Wednesday. But it also means I have 3 hours of planning on Thursday. Hopefully I will get better and better about using that planning like I want.

This year I am co-teaching 2 Advanced Algebra classes, the junior level math here in GA. I am co-teaching 2 Chemistry classes, a sophomore class. Lastly, I am teaching 1 resource (small group) Chemistry class. So far I am loving teaching chemistry! The teacher I co-teach with is someone that I coach lacrosse with so our classes run really smoothly. So far the advanced algebra curriculum has been fun!

I honestly didn't really believe everyone when they said that year 1 is so hard. But so far I feel like this year has been much easier. Not because I have less work or the work is easier. I just feel like I have a better idea of how to handle the majority of stuff that comes my way. You waste a lot less time figuring those things out so you can spend more time doing the stuff you need to do.

For all my other teachers who've started back in the last couple weeks I wish you good luck and hope you all have a great year.

Come back and read again for my very first blog about my chemistry interactive notebook!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Summer Homework

Our principal asked us to write a reflection of our classrooms last year, here are the questions he gave us to focus our responses:

1. What do you think the motivational level in your classes was last year?

Last year in the majority of the classes I taught or co-taught the motivation level was on the low side. I do not believe that it was zero- however; it most certainly could have been higher. Of course there were students in every class who were individually motivated to succeed regardless of the opinions of their peers.

2. Was there a value problem? An expectancy problem?

I think that the biggest problem had to do with the students not seeing enough value in the subject and class time. This is something I experienced in study skills, if the students do not value their core subjects then they typically don’t value the extra time in study skills to work on their core subjects. This leads to a motivation problem in study skills. I think that our school does a good job mediating expectancy problems because we are so willing to offer help to students who need it. However, there will always be students who don’t believe they can complete work and thus their motivation is low- I don’t believe I experienced this type of problem as much as a value problem.

3. If you considered apathy to be an issue, what was your role in that?

I think that a teacher’s role with apathy starts from the very first day of school. Students can tell when they have worn you down to the point of you not caring either.

4. What was already working?

I think that I had consistent and high expectations for my students. I think when I conveyed them well they helped my students know how to be successful and succeed in my classroom.

5. What will you do differently?

One area I know I need to improve is communicating my expectations. I really liked how the CHAMPS book says to have guidelines for success which are separate from classroom rules. I am looking forward to having some good class discussions using the CHAMPS model for each activity and transition (Conversation, Help, Activity, Movement, Participation).

6. How will you monitor and assess the effectiveness of your new strategies?

Well for most of my students I will already be keeping track of behavioral data that can be compared to last year to see if the guidelines for success and classroom rules I use are effective. Part of making sure they are effective is using consistent consequences. These can also be tracked by a data collection method to ensure that I am fairly and consistently enforcing all the rules and their specified consequences.  Also if implementing the CHAMPS method is effective it will maximize instructional time which will lead to expected growth or higher than expected growth on the Student Learning Objective test.

Has anyone out there used the CHAMPS model in their classroom? Esp in the high school level?

Any suggestions on guidelines for success or classroom rules that you have used before that you liked?

Please feel free to post comments with any of your suggestions and ideas!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Teaching Supplies!!

My grandparents moved into a smaller house so they had an estate sale at their old place. So what was the first thing I went looking for? Things I could use in my classroom. First thing I found were these heavyweight sheet protectors. I figured I could put some graph paper in their or just white paper and students can use them like white boards! Totally awesome!

Next things were these magazine holders. Now either I'll just use them to keep my self organized or I thought maybe my students can keep their interactive notebooks in here (I'll most likely have less than 12 students). Also shown below i found some red card stock! Gotta start stock piling colored paper- esp colors that my school doesn't provide! Just like Math = Love

Monday, July 6, 2015

Erin Condren Teacher Planners!

I have always been someone who loves planners. I love color coding them, highlighting, and covering each page with sticky notes. I knew I was gonna need something awesome for when I became a teacher. My little sister, who is also a teacher, recommended the Erin Condren Teacher Planner.  Now, they are a splurge- but I think it was worth it. I took it everywhere and used it all the time.  Keep reading to see a pictorial review of my Erin Condren Teacher Planner. 

2014-2015 Planner
Above is my planner from last year. There are so many great covers to choose from that you can most definitely find one that fits your style and personality. I love color so I went with rainbow! Also you can customize it to say your name and school on the front. 

Pages I didn't really use :(
Above are some of the pages at the beginning of the planner that I didn't use. The first "all about me" page I did fill in with my info- just in case. But the "classroom events and volunteers" and "substitute" pages felt like they were designed for an elementary class room. I am not planning anything for those pages next year- they will just remain blank. The "year at a glance" pages seem like they could be really useful, but as a first year teacher not knowing what subjects I would be teaching- I didn't fill it in. I plan on trying to fill it in this year for my resource chemistry class.

Another page I didn't use- But I will!
Above is another page that I think was designed for an elementary class room where you only have 25-30 kids ever. This would be useful to track what the kids missed. However when you have 20-30 kids in each of your 5 periods- it makes using this section a little more difficult. SO my big plan for re-purposing this section for next year is to use it as a parent/student contact log. This will be very beneficial to me because while I was good about contacting parents I was really bad about logging it on our online system for parent contacts. This is important for special education because there are laws specifying how many times you need to attempt to contact parents and such. Also since I always have my planner with me, I can write it in the section and then log it the online system later! Great Idea! (well I hope it is anyway-

Not pictured: there is a section full of graph paper. I mostly used it just for notes and lists and things. But you could use it for seating arrangements. I imagine it would be useful for all sorts of other things too.
Monthly View
These were great because after each month are 3 pages for notes for that month. I also used this both as a calendar for school and personal. It was nice to be able to see when all the home football and basketball games were. Also I coach lacrosse so practice and game times were kept here too.

Lesson Planning pages! 
Above are the lesson planning pages! I love these. Even though we have to turn in electronic lesson plans, I really benefit from mapping it out on paper first. Although I do suggest writing in pencil otherwise you'll use lots of white out or sticky notes. Across the top are 7 slots, which works well if your are on a 7 period day- I guess. But luckily not all of us have 7 preps so we can combine blocks and have more space to write. Now it took me a while to figure out what my optimal set up was for my classes across the top. But one thing that I found VERY helpful was to have a section for my planning period where I could make to-do lists for everything that needed to get done. Also you can see in the picture where I've "X"-ed out some days for some classes. My high school is on a modified block so Mon, Tue, and Fri are 7 period days. Wed is Odd block day and Thur is even block day. So this planner is definitely customizable to your schedule- you will just have to play around with it.

Who doesn't love stickers?!

Grade book- I think?
I think these pages were designed to be used as a grade book. For me this year I didn't think that would be useful because our grades are done online. However, there are some glitches with that and it is possible for students grades from all year to be lost (YIKES!). So next year I think I will try to keep a grade book, at least for the Chem resource class that I will be teaching. For my co-taught classes I don't think I'll be keeping track of all that. Above you can see 2 things I tried to use these pages for. The left was me trying to keep track of my students IEP goals. The right was me marking tardies. Tardies are a big problem at our school- not really sure why. I think it has to do with the fact that the building was designed to hold like 800 max students and we've got like 1100 students in. We are growing too fast!
2015-2016 Planner!
Lastly, above is my planner for next year! I decided to go with a positive quote on the outside to always remind me that I can do anything I put my mind to! Also in the package this year was another positive quote- so I stuck it inside the front cover!

Overall I would totally recommend the Teacher Planner to anyone. My middle sister and I loved the teacher planner so much that our youngest sister, who is a college student, got the life planner. She loves that thing too! Basically Erin Condren knows what she is doing! Check her out at her website!