Bragging On My Son….

My first grade son was doing his homework this afternoon, and he was knocking out double-digit addition  problems mentally and not even breaking a sweat. It was AMAZING to watch. I was so enthralled that I asked him to explain his process and I took dictation as he spoke:

“So I took the 40 and the 30 and I knew it was 70. Then I took the 7 and the 8 and I knew it was 15. Then I knew that 70 and 15 equaled 85.”

The “quick tens” were added after he calculated the answer.


“So I just took the 53 and 27 and added the 7 to the 3. I knew it equaled 60. I took the 2 and it was 20 and put it with the 60 and I knew it equaled 80.”

“Because I knew 8 and 8 made 16 and I knew 3 and 4 were 30 and 40 so that’s 70. So I added the 16 to the 70 and I knew it equaled 86.”

“So I knew 3 and 5 made 8 so I just took the 50 and 40 and knew it equaled 90. Then I took the 8 and the 90 and I knew it equaled 98.”

Props (and hugs) to his teacher!

PLC and Classroom Management

Last Monday’s #MSMathChat was very productive for me.  I have many weaknesses as a teacher, but I think my Achilles Heel is classroom management.  I tend to get lost in the content that I’m presenting to my students which makes me a little like this:

horse with blinders


The conversation last Monday centered around age appropriate behavior and how to manage what happens in class so you can effectively teach. (Storify-ed version here.) What behaviors do you address?  What behaviors do you ignore?  This all made me think long and hard about what I do in my classroom–and I found that I’m allowing too many of my students to divert my attention with inappropriate behavior, and the other students are getting frustrated with that.  I see it in their eyes, and it’s a reflection of what I also feel.  I sat down early last week (Tuesday or Wednesday I think) and identified which students are “vampirically” sucking my attention, and what behaviors they are exhibiting.  This was eye-opening to me.  What I discovered was that only 3-5 students in my two most challenging classes are the culprits.  (Well, really, I’m the culprit–they’re my accomplices, if you want to get technical about it.)

We are contracted with a consultant named Sarah Buckerfield to work on school-wide bell-to-bell management strategies.  Since the new semester started, I have changed my classroom seating structure (from groups to desks facing forward in groups of two) and have implemented use of my iPhone alarm system to alert me when 2 minutes before the warning bell sounds so I can give students (and me) enough time to pack up and prepare for the next class.  This has helped a lot, but I was obviously missing some key components to make it more solid and run more smoothly.  That’s where Monday’s #MSMathChat came in.  Again, the Power of the PLC is rockin’!



My desk arrangement.  It’s working well so far.

These are some things that I really liked from the chat and blogs that I read on a regular basis that I plan on implementing:

  • Reflection forms for inappropriate classroom behavior (a la @lydiakirkman and Math=Love)
  • Ignoring certain behaviors that really don’t affect the learning in the class (I find that they only affect learning if I address them)
  • Accentuating the positive (a la @Mr_Oldfield–he gives handwritten postcards to students with positive feedback.  So cool!!!)
  • Keeping students accountable to expectations that they determine (a la @MathNeil).  I already have expectations that the students came up with, but I forget a lot of the time to reinforce them.
  • Continue to reach out to my PLC via Twitter and #MTBoS.  There is so much to learn out there.  (Actually, when I mentioned in class that I was going to blog about this, one of my students said, “That’s rather arrogant, don’t you think?” He thought I was going blog because I thought what I was doing was such a  wonderful job that other teachers should be doing it too!  I had to reverse that line of thinking by letting him know that I was in fact doing the opposite–reaching out to other awesome teachers to get input and ideas to improve my teacher-self.)

I would love to hear what you do in your class that you find successful in keeping students focused and on task.  Please comment!

Say No to Yes!

My integrated math 1 students were simulating a one-and-one situation earlier this week.  From their IMP book, they were asked to explore Terry and her 60% success rate at the free throw line as it applies to a one-and-one.  Anyone not familiar with what a one-and-one is?  Good!  I wasn’t either…at first.  And I have a 16-year-old obsessed with all things basketball.  He happened to be plugged in and doing homework at the time I was planning for this lesson, so I didn’t want to bother him with my menial question. Instead, I do what other curious homo sapiens do:  I Googled it. And here it is in a nutshell: when a team has been fouled 7 times in a half, the other team gets the opportunity for foul shot at the free throw line. If the player misses, the one-and-one is over and regular play resumes. If the player makes the shot, he or she can shoot again. There is a total of up to 2 points to be earned in a one-and-one. My students were tasked with finding Terry’s theoretical probability of earning each of the 3 possible point values: 0, 1, or 2. This, of course, would be easy enough if she had a 50% success rate…but she has a 60% success rate. To help them in their quest, they were to make an area model of their theoretical probabilities. The discussions I heard as I roamed the room were fan-tas-tic!!! Of course, as I walked around, I initially encountered bewildered looks and blank stares. Hopelessness was looming, and to their further despair, I refused to give them the answer and end their misery. I have learned (through much trial and error) that the best way to help my students learn is to help them as little as possible. I like to call this, “Say no to yes!” I heard many a grunt and exclamation of frustration from around the room as students asked me, “Am I right?” Or “Is this the right answer?” and I would either shrug or reply non-chalantly, “Ok.” Oh the angst! It was palpable! I LOVED every second of it, especially when I got in response, “Argh! Mrs. McCoy!!!! I HATE it when you do that!” I had to stop myself many times from giggling in glee. They had no idea how many synapses they grew that day! Then a beautiful thing started to happen–like popcorn beginning to pop in the bag, students began shouting in joy, “OHHH! I get it!” And they would hurriedly rush to explain it to their peers before their revelations were lost. It was the single most joyous teaching moment of my career.