Posted in Education, MTBoS

My Teacher Hacks Contribution

I love hacks.  Especially teacher hacks since they usually involve making my school life easier/more efficient/cost effective.  Below are some of the hacks that I use on a regular basis.

1. ) Mail Merge

Mail Merge is a command that you can do in Microsoft Word.  If you have ever wanted to quickly address a memo to individual students and include other information (like their first period classroom number for delivery) this hack is for you. I use this a ton to contact my extra curricular team.  I also use it for my information sheets (I like to have a paper version of what you see online to write on while talking to parents on the phone).

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First, make an excel file that includes header titles in the first row.  If you use PowerSchool, you can obtain this list through the reports function. Then, open Word and select Mailings.Screen Shot 2017-09-03 at 7.30.09 PM.png

Select Start Mail Merge>Letters.

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Then Select Recipients>Use an Existing List and locate the excel file you created in the earlier step.  Then start making your master document and

Insert Merge Fields

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such as Name or Period as you go.

Finally, Finish and Merge.  I usually select the option to edit individual documents if I want to see what things will look like before I print.  Since we have student aides who will deliver the notices, I sort the list according to their first period room number to make delivery more efficient.

2.)  1 Quick Share on Google Drive

My document camera is no where near as crisp as my personal phone.  Additionally, our school uses older PCs with Microsoft products which precludes me from using Air Drop to share student work but I have found a nice workaround (I wish I could give credit to the blogger who wrote about it, so if you know that person, let me know and I will credit them here). When I want to show student work, I do the following.  I take a picture of it with my phone.  Then click export.


Then select Google Drive (I have the app on my phone)


Then select 1 Quick Share (named as such so it shows up first here)


That folder is bookmarked on the internet showing in my classroom so that all I have to do is click and the picture is ready for viewing or for inserting into my SmartNotebook.

3.) Export SmartNotebook to .pdfs and Save to a Folder Linked on Schoology

I was not a fan of SmartBoards originally.  I believed them to be overpriced whiteboards.  Then with the advent of better software and apps such as Desmos and Geogebra, I have come around to appreciate the power of dynamic demonstrations and the ability of my students to touch the math.  Now all of my lessons are made on the Notebook software.  At the end of each period, I select Export to pdf and save the file to a Google Drive folder that I have shared with my students on Schoology (previously I would just share the link with a or through PowerSchool).  Now when a student’s IEP calls for providing them with the notes from class or when a student is absent, I can easily direct them to the notes from class and I do not have to keep updating the link.

4.) magnetic tape

Most white boards and chalkboards are magnetic.  Having magnetic tape allows you to stick almost anything to the board for easy access.  I put this tape on the back of my hallpass and it is stuck to the blackboard near the door so I never have to even touch it. I’ve used it on clipboards, dry erase markers, the daily period start and end time schedule in a plastic sleeve.  Basically anything that you would like to have at your fingertips while near the board.

5.) Extra Copies Bin with 31 Hanging Folders

I keep a bin of 31 folders for each class.  At the end of the day, any extra copies go in the folder with the date on it.  Students who are absent need only go to the date that they were absent and get the copies they need.  When I get to that date the next month, I recycle what ever is left over.  I also link a digital copy of anything that has been copied into PowerSchool so that if we happen to run out of copies, a student can make their own copy through the link.

6.) Word Wall with Definitions

I had a conference with my administrator several years ago.  I knew that my district really wanted us to have word walls but I hated the idea of giving up prime wall real estate for just words on a wall.  Together, we came up with the idea of having the word on a flap that could be lifted with the definition hiding beneath.  Genius. Now my word wall had “meaning” and I didn’t mind giving up the real estate since there was more of a purpose to the activity.

Posted in Blaugust

The End of #Blaugust

I was not completely successful with blaugust but am happy with the result anyway.  Blogging really helps me to look for the positive in every day.  Even when situations are negative, you can make them positive by learning from them.  I have noticed that my posts that earn the most attention are ones that highlight the positive things I have learned.  Even when I have admitted mistakes on this blog, I have learned great lessons that I have shared.  Moving forward into this school year I plan to continue with the #Teach180 picture posts with 140 character reflections, or microblogging, if you will :).  I would like to publish longer blog posts approximately once per week.  I wanted to thank the #MTBoS for inspiring me to get back to blogging my reflections on teaching and inspiring me to get more involved on Twitter again.  I also committed to moderating the #MTBoS hashtag on the 30th of each month which was a fun experience yesterday.  It is great to help others feel welcome in this community that I have learned so much from and I like giving back in any way that I can.

Posted in Blaugust, Education, Sketchnote

Late Start Thoughts #blaugust #Teach180

Today was our first late start day.  Our district opted to start doing these again.  We used to do these MANY years ago but they would only be once a month.  This year, we will do these weekly.  I hope that this time around we will get better attendance on these late start days since it is weekly.  Given the near perfect attendance in my classes thus far, I’d say this concern is not really warranted :).

I did some sketchnotes during our morning session.  I can attest that they do help keep me focused and in the moment which is one of my goals for this school year and really in life. My tablemates took notice of what I was doing and made comments that were positive.  Really they just help me to stay on task and help me to reflect later on the important parts of the meeting or activity.FullSizeRender.jpg

Some of these items only make sense to me.

  • We were reminded of one of my favorite Rich East entities this morning when the brother of Bill Yarborough came to talk to us about financial freedom.  Anyone who has met him has probably been called champ but you felt like the number one champ in his book whenever you talked with him.  Building relationships has been key to my success this school year and I need to channel his enthusiasm into my lessons.
  • We have a pretty worthwhile (yet lofty goal) of 29% percentile rank improvement goal in math over the next several years.  I like the fact that we are planning on how to achieve this goal instead of diving right in.  However, as always with any % I would like to have a clear “numerator” and “denominator” so I know where the benchmark lies.  Sometimes people will use percents and will not really understand what those two numbers are which makes it difficult to measure success.
  • I am proud of how far I have come when it comes to using de-escalation techniques with students.  There were definitely some points in my career that I interacted with students in a way that I am not proud of.  I think that these experiences taught me so much about how to effectively deal with situations and when I see a student getting more upset, I have strategies that I employ that help de-escalate things (active listening, employing the assistance of another adult, etc).  I would like more strategies to employ in the future.
  • I am always looking for ways to improve.  You can make improvements year to year or day to day or minute to minute.  I’m happy with my progress when it comes to engagement and I hope to continue on this path during the remainder of this year.
Posted in Blaugust, Education, Math

The Beginning of My “Math Play Table” and Broken Circles #teach180 #blaugust


I was excited this morning because the magnatiles I ordered for my play table will arrive sometime today.  However, I realized that I already had some puzzles that would work well on the table for this week :).  I already had some students try out the math puzzles here today so I am looking forward to what this table will do in the future.  I thank Sara Van Der Werf for the inspiration for this in my room (I believe my students will thank her too).

Additionally, today my students worked with the Broken Circles activity.  The inspiration for this activity came from reading the Math Equals Love post about this activity.  I believe I learned more about my students through this activity than they learned for themselves but I am ok with that outcome because I really do think they learned about how to work on a team and that sometimes your solution will not help other people with their problems. At one point, this team had waited a VERY LONG TIME to have one student give up any of his pieces so they just gave them all to him.  He struggled and was unable to put the four circles together himself.  I tried to check in with the students and I look forward to reading their feedback to see what this group gleaned from this experience.  I definitely learned something and plan to use that information to move forward in my class.IMG_7507a.jpg


Posted in Uncategorized

Gots and Needs QUICK Closure Activity #teach180 #blaugust

One of my favorite closure activities is “Gots and Needs”.  You can do it with basically no prep in case you want to check in quickly with your students.  Give each student TWO post-it notes.  Ask them to write down one thing they “got” from the lesson and one thing they “need” to understand better for the next lesson.  Then students place their post-its on the board.  Typically, by the next day I will organize these post-its into groups and report back to students what they said.   I like this activity because it forces students to articulate in their own words at least one lesson they learned from the day and to also articulate what questions they still have.  My students struggle with putting into words what they see in their heads.  Sometimes, I will take pictures of what students actually wrote so that we can discuss how to better formulate questions.  I find it really telling about my lesson when students write things like “everything” because then I know that I have missed my mark (regardless of whether “everything” shows up under got or need).IMG_7504.jpg

Posted in Uncategorized

Not All Tools Need To Be Used #blaugust

This year I started with the intention of keeping an online lesson planner.  This would allow both my co-teacher and any other teachers on my team to “see where I am” whenever they wanted to dip in and check it out.  I tried it out for the last week and a half.  I thought that I tweaked it enough to really suit my needs and from day 1 I HATED IT!  It was awful because I could barely keep my schedule straight let alone what copies I had already made versus ones that needed to be made.  I really tried to make it work the second week as well and it is more hassle than it is worth.  So today, I printed out my old school boxes and suddenly felt at home YET disappointed with myself that I didn’t try to make it work.  Several years ago I gave up on my handwritten planner just to go out and buy another one after the first month of an online one – NOW I can barely imagine what it was like to carry the notebook around with me all the time as I LOVE my Google Calendar (I even do all my meal planning in a calendar).  Anyway, this just goes to show that maybe one day I will be ready to do all my planning virtually, but that is not today.  I wonder if the problems I had with technology this week might have led to this decision.  However, I am just going to enjoy the bliss of being in my happy planned space and enjoy my weekend 🙂 Sometimes tech DOES NOT answer all of your problems.

Posted in Blaugust, Education, Geometry, Math, MTBoS

My Favorite Five Minute Games #blaugust

Today I gave pre-assessments in all of my classes.  It is a necessary evil in this world of data driven decisions. However, it also allowed my students the time to register for Remind and Khan Academy which is worthwhile.  Two of my classes still had five minutes left at the end so I played “Guess My Number” and had a blast.  When I first started teaching my arsenal of five minute games was pretty limited.  Below are my favorites.

Guess My Number (Between 1 and 1000)

Though it sounds daunting it really isn’t.   Students are in groups and ask yes/no questions to determine my number.  Each group gets three guesses at any time that they turn in on a post-it note.  The inspiration for this game came from the internet but I could not find the blog post to give it credit 😦

Sum Sudoku

I blogged about this fun one recently. It has a really quick set up and an endless array of possibilities on level of difficulty and scaffolding.

Tech and One Minute: Math Mayhem

My high school students STILL struggle with their multiplication facts.  When I have out my Chromebooks and we have finished an online activity, I introduce them to Math Mayhem.  It is elementary BUT after the first round when I DOMINATE them and they realize the challenge of beating me IT IS ON.  My students will clammer for this activity.  I will usually only do it once a year but it is a glorious one day.


My district bought us a set of these cards a long time ago and I will bust them out when I have five minutes in class.  I’ll challenge students to find multiple ways to make 24 in their groups. This game is also a super fun way to talk about order of operations.

Draw the House 

Again, a no set up game.  I challenge my students to draw the following figure without lifting their pencil off of the page (in other words, one continuous line) and without retracing any lines.


Connect the Dots

Challenge your students to connect the dots without lifting their pencil off of the page, using only 4 lines, and no retracing any lines. It cracks me up to see them draw and redraw the same wrong answer over and over and over.  I’ll give them a hint to “think outside the box” and they just have no idea.

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Spelling Bee

I have Geometry so there is a TON of vocabulary.  I will take students who want to participate and have them do a mini spelling bee of Geometry terms from class.

Integer Ball

I have a beach ball that I have written integers all over.  We toss the ball and the students have to perform an integer operation with the numbers that their thumbs are touching.  You can do this game as an elimination game or one for points for your team.