Sunday, August 19, 2012

How I set up my classroom

This week's #MSsunfun post is about classroom set up.  This seems like it is going to be a great set of blogs to follow as it is super interesting to see how other teachers set up their classrooms.  I posted about my classroom set up a couple years back.  Of course since then, I have moved classrooms twice (and a total of 5 times the past 7 years!)  Last year, I was in a classroom and a half as I was also teaching science and needed the extra room.  This year I'm back to a regular sized classroom although its shape is a little different than I'm used to because it is at the end of the building not in the middle.

Anyhow, onto how I set up my classroom.  Every summer, the custodians take all our furniture out of our classrooms which basically gives us a blank canvas on how to set it back up.  (They will put the furniture back as it was, in differently if you ask, etc- the custodians are great!)  Last year, when I moved rooms I went from plain old tables to science desks (you know the black ones made heavy wood that fit two kids on a side).  If you read this blog, you will know that I learned about Dry Erase paint and decided to make over the science tables.  I painted the table tops with this paint which enables kids to write notes, do math problems, draw, etc and also allows me to stop by and while discussing a problem with a student to actually write stuff out.  Both the kids and I loved it last year.  So, I took the tables with me.

  Its looking like I will need all 12 tables as I have class sizes of 24 students again this year (possibly even higher if more people move into the district.)  Because my classroom is long and narrowish I decided on doing four groups of three desks.  I like to group the desks because most of the work I do has the kids working in groups either of my choosing (or random choosing) or their own choosing.  The groupings of three actually should help with discussion and group work.  Later in the year, I use a different way of assigning seats (I'll post about it later) but to start the year off I allow students to sit where they choose.

When I set up the desks, I allowed for extra room in front of the Smart board so that I can put a carpet there and work with small groups on certain skills at times during math classes.  I also made sure to leave plenty of other spots around the room for groups to go to as I've noticed my 6th graders just LOVE sitting on the floor (well unless we tell them they have to at an assembly.)

I myself don't really use a desk but instead have a long table on which my desk top computer (the one that runs the Smart board) sits along with my ELMO.  I figure I spend most of class walking around or sitting with different groups that there isn't much of a reason for me to have a desk.  When I'm on my prep break and need to correct, the table works just fine.

I've always tried to put all materials that kids will need together in one spot and this year is no different with me having this nice white cubby set up where I can put dice, playing cards, crayons, staplers, and the like.  I make sure to go over this early in the year, telling kids they can use whatever they want but reminding them that they are responsible for picking up after themselves or the stuff won't be there anymore (the whole with rights comes responsibility thing that is so important in middle school.)

The other thing I do is use mailboxes to pass out things like homework, classwork, notes, etc.  I find this much easier than passing it out at the beginning of class or having a student in charge of passing stuff out.  I make sure early in the year to practice with students what they will do when they enter my room (go to their mailbox, grab EVERYTHING in there) and so it works pretty well.  I have three classes and so have three sets of mailboxes.  I suppose I could use one and share but I don't really want to rush between classes to put papers into mailboxes (especially if I tier assignments and need to pass out different stuff!)

New to me this year is having raised shelves to put student notebooks.  I love this because it gives me more room (as these shelves are right above the mailboxes.  Again, I practice with kids getting their notebooks as they enter and we will have to see how these new shelves work.

You probably noticed that my walls are pretty bare.  I do have a few math and inspirational posters that I put up but I like to keep most of the wall (and blackboard) available to post student work as the year goes along.  I'll include some updated photos throughout the year.

Well, there you have it.  That is how my classroom is set up for this year (starting for us in about a week and a half now!)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Math Notebooks

So this week's #MSSunFun post is about how we set up math notebooks with our students.  This is an exciting post just like the first day one because once again I'm going to get to "borrow" a bunch of other great ideas!

Anyhow without further ado, here is how I do my notebooks:

I use these large black binders for each students' notebook.

These binders are available because my school has done student led portfolio conferences for the past ten years and as we have moved toward more and more technology, including going 1 to 1 in both 6th and 7th grade, these binder have become obsolete for portfolios.  Therefore ,binders make great notebooks because they are free!

I have students set up their binders by following the order of our units of study.  We begin the year with whole number sense and follow that with fractions, decimals, geometry, measurement, data, probability, and algebra.  Each of these unit topics is a different divider in their binder.

Inside each divider I start the year off with a number of papers that I have already copied for the students.  The first paper is the KUD (what I want kids to know, understand, and be able to do) for that particular unit.     Here is one for whole number sense.  I also include a sheet to record notebook items (which I'll talk about later), a sheet to record exit cards, and a sheet to record how students did on their understanding of standards on quizzes.   I will admit that I need to do a better job of really showing the kids how to fill out these forms, reminding them early in the year to fill them out, and giving them more time to fill them out.

Once I have all these forms and papers in the binders, I store them here.

Students then grab them every day when they come into math class and go to their mailboxes and take out the papers that need to go into the binders such as this notebook item, returned quizzes and exit cards, and activities or homework.  I have students keep notebook items, quizzes, and exit cards for the whole year. (and in fact, I recommend to the kids that they keep the notebook items throughout middle school as they will only help as the kids do more advanced math.  I'm sure you can imagine how many kids listen to me about this though:)!   Activities and homework are cleaned out at the end of each unit.  Some of you might be wondering why I do notebook items instead of having kids take notes.  I have found over the years that middle school students don't have much of an idea on how to take notes.  By giving them basically a graphic organizer I help them get the idea of taking notes while making sure they get the information I want them to get.

So there you go, that is how I set up notebooks for my kids to use during their year of math with me.  I'm looking forward to seeing some other ideas and adapting them to fit my class!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The First Day

This is my first post in the Middle School Sunday Funday blog (#MSsunfun) that I had previously blogged about.  As I mentioned, each Sunday, a group of us Middle School teachers will be tackling a specific topic.  This week's topic is "What does the first day of school look like in your classroom?" 

I'm going to talk about the first day of "actual" class in my classroom.  The first day of school we have limited time in normal academics as we do a "student inservice" where the kids learn about the school, discuss our core values, and such.

I start the first class by getting the kids up and moving around by playing "vacation human bingo."  We spend a lot of time playing games and doing activities that involve getting up and moving around in my math class so this is a good introduction to that.  This is a "get to know you" activity where students go around and ask each other to sign their bingo board under a category that they did over the summer (such as visited three other states, etc.)  Each student can only sign another student's bingo board once so interaction with many different people is encouraged.  After a short period of playing time, we sit down and go over our boards.  This provides even more of a chance for the kids to get to know one another.  Next I go over class expectations, unit of study, my grading policy, etc.  Since we are a 1 to 1 school, I share this document containing much of that information with the kids (and their parents) before school and ask them on this first day if any of them have questions about what math will look like.  Then to wrap up I've begun using an activity I borrowed from Lisa Henry (@LMHenry9) where I give the students a bunch of numbers (32 to be exact) and sixteen things about me (such as number of siblings, number of my house, year I graduated high school, etc) and have them guess which ones go where.  As I walk around, I get a little feeling about the kids' ability to estimate and reason when they guess at what year I was born in (no, 1905 isn't correct!)  Finally I end the first day by assigning the first homework assignment.  I ask students to write about themselves in a million words or less (I borrowed this from Paul Bogush, @paulbogush).  We being school on a Wednesday so I make this assignment due the following Tuesday (thereby giving the students some time to think and actually write about themselves not just rush through.)

Overall, I like how the first day runs.  It gives the students a good idea of what math class will be like plus they get to play with numbers a bit too.  I'm looking forward to seeing some other ideas that I can "borrow" as well.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

MS Sunday Funday Blog postings

Earlier this week, Julie Reulbach (@jreulbach) posted a survey looking for middle school educators who wanted to connect.  (Here is the link to her blog with the survey).  She had an amazing response to her survey with over 80 middle school math teachers responding. (link to her blog showing the results of the survey.)  Out of that came some good discussion on twitter with Julie, @4mulafun, @Borschtwithanna, myself and others.  We decided on the heels of the increasing popular #made4math Monday blogs, that we would add a new middle school math blog day.   After much discussion, we decided on Sunday to be the day to post blogs (largely because we wanted to use the name MS Sunday Funday for the blogs!)  The goal is to get as many middle school math teachers blogging and sharing ideas as possible with a common blog theme each week.  We decided to come up with a couple topics to start off with (first day activities, how you set up your math notebooks) and then we are going to go with a survey to get weekly ideas. Here is a link to the survey for new topics. The first blog post will this Sunday with the topic being "What do you do on your first day of school?" (of course, you don't have to wait until Sunday to publish your posts) Once you are done, tweet the link to Julie, @jreulbach so she can make a running list.  Please consider joining us even if you are not a math teacher.  Here is a link to the list of future topics that will be published in advance.  Julie has also provided a link to a spot on the MS Math wiki for those people who do not have a blog but would like to add a post. Looking forward to some great sharing!