Sub Plans

Wow!  It has been a while since I have had time to sit down and blog about anything.  This school year started out with a bang and I have been going non stop ever since.  I have already had to use sub plans for a few meetings that I have had to miss class for and one more next week is coming up. 

This summer I was reading on Twitter and saw a post about having the students teach the sub (or something like that).  So I thought I would try it. 

Now I teach 5th grade math and had to really think this through.  So here is what I did. 

I wrote 10 questions that had multiple parts to each problem and assigned each student a problem (one problem per page).  Depending on the size of the class, two to three students had the same problem.  This was toward the end of the first six weeks, so the questions were also a review of the topics we have covered so far. 

The directions to the sub were to give the students their problem (I had written each students name of a problem that I wanted them to work) and let them work individually for 5 to 6 minutes. 
The next step was to let them get in their groups to work together on their problem and discuss how they would present the problem to the class.  They had directions that stated they were to explain HOW to solve the problems, but not to give any answers.  They had to about 15 minutes to prepare their presentation.

Next the sub had a packet with all 10 problems on it and instructed everyone to go back to their seats.  Each student got a packet and were told to work all the problems after they heard from the presenters on how to solve the problem.  Of course they did not finish in the one day I was out.  But I am actually glad.  When I returned, they continued their presentations and I was able to hear some of them and it really was interesting to hear their explanations on how to solve some of the problems.

Next week I am going to be out again for another meeting.  So I took those same problems and tweaked them a little and the students will have them to work on that day.  I am using this as one last evaluation of their knowledge of the concepts that I have taught so far this year. 

My main goal any time I am out of the classroom is that I do not want them to just sit there and do busy work.  I want them to be working on math and it is not always easy to find a good sub that feels comfortable teaching that subject.  So I have to find things that they can do that keeps them occupied on the current topics.


I am going to make this this week and start using them and all the different ideas given. Great idea!!!

Originally posted on I Speak Math:

I loved new blogger Bruce’s post “My Name is 6 x 7” where each student wears a multiplication fact (say 12 x 6) on a name tag.  Then, everyone calls that person 72 for the whole time they are wearing their multiplication name tag.  As soon as I read this, I knew I had to try it with my 6th graders!   Most of them are still having trouble with 9′s and 12′s facts.  My problem is they are only in math for 1 hour a day, so for this to be effective, they would need to wear their facts for a few days in a row in my class.  Since I didn’t want to use up 32 name tags a day (labels can get expensive), I came up with a dry-erase nametag solution.

Nora gave me the great idea in a comment on my Math Stations post about…

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Math Centers – this is all new to me

So this year has begun and we just finished week 2.  This is going to be a great year!

The new thing I am doing this year is “CENTERS”.  I have never done anything like this before.  I have always had a more traditional classroom.

This last week we were working on Place Value.  In 5th grade it is our beginning topic, but it is mainly review for the students and it is a supporting standard in our TEKS.  We add on to their knowledge by bringing in the Billions and going down to the thousandths.  So instead of direct teaching, I put the students into four different groups and gave each group a different task on the topic and let them go.  I was amazed!  All of the students were engaged in mathematical talk and work almost the entire time.  No one was falling asleep from boredom :) and I mainly facilitated the room.

From what the kids were telling me, they enjoyed it and at times were getting so into their activities that I had to ask them to quiet down so other groups could concentrate.  We still had whole group discussion and a little note taking to make sure everyone was on the same page and understood how to do it all correctly.  But that only took about 10 or 15 minutes of the 90 minute class.

I still have some bugs to work out of the system, and I will be learning all year myself on the best practices for centers, but this is a winner.  If you have any great activities for 5th grade math lessons, I would greatly appreciate the ideas.

Why I Teach Math . . .

I think everyone at one point or another think about their career choice and what they are doing with their lives.  As the new year starts up, it is something that I like to remind myself about as I begin with a new set of students.  I know there will be times during this year that will test me and this helps me to stay focused on the reason I get up every morning and go into my classroom.

When I was in junior high I knew I wanted to be a math teacher.  I had the best math teacher who made fractions fun (who would of thought) and I wanted to be like her.  So, I entered the education department in college to become a teacher.  However, I was swayed by some teachers who did not like their job.  So I switched to Computer Science.  I thought I would go for the money.

That was the hardest and best decision I think I have ever made.  I was a natural in my education courses.  However, I struggled in the computer classes.  I worked harder than ever to pass those classes.  But I was determined to never give up.  I finally graduated with a BS in Computer Science and had a job.  I hated it.  I realized, sitting there in my little cubicle, that I was designed to be with other human beings.  But not just with them, but teaching them.  However, I know that it has made me a better teacher.

After graduation I went through an alternative program to get my teaching certification.  I have been teaching ever since and now I am starting my 11th year as a math teacher.

I enjoy working with students and helping them learn new things.  When they get that look on their face that says “Oh!  I get it!” it sends me through the roof with excitement for them.  This past week I was listening to students conversations about how to solve for n (5th grade students) and it was the first week of school!  I was smiling from ear to ear.

But that time I spent in those computer science classes helped me the most.  You know those students that have the look on their faces as you explain a new concept that says you are speaking a foreign language to them?  That was me in those computer classes.  I understand what they are feeling.

This is another year that we have begun.  My goal is to make it the best year of their (my students)  lives.  I want them to love school and teach them as much as I can so that they can be successful!!!  And if some of them tell me that I am their favorite teacher, it helps, even if they might just say it so I don’t work them too hard.  :)

Homework Policies

The first week of school with students in their seats is behind me now.  I have gotten behind in my posting – I’ve just been so tired and swamped with “school” stuff, that I actually have not even been on my computer at home this last week.  Hopefully I will be able to get back into a regular routine soon.


This week’s Sunday Funday post is about homework policies.  My homework policies have to change from year to year depending on the grade level and school that I am in.

There are so many issues around math and homework.  As a teacher I want my students to practice the concepts that we are working on in class.  I want them to be successful, but I also know that some of them do not do it.  Some of the parents help too much, etc.  And I do not like zeros because students don’t do their assignment.

Last year I started two things that really seemed to work for me.  First of all, their homework was a Weekly Homework.  It consisted of around 20 word problems over the current concepts and review concepts.  They would have one week to work on it, I give it out on a Friday and it is due the next Friday.  I give a little bit of time each day in class to work on it (we are double blocked and have about 90 minutes in class).

The other thing I do is I use a H.O.T. sheet.  H.O.T stands for Homework On Time.  Each students gets a H.O.T. sheet to keep in their binder.  When we have a homework due, we stamp the H.O.T. sheets.  There are 14 places for a stamp.  Once students have their H.O.T. sheet completely full, they can turn it in to replace a low daily grade with a 100.  This has encouraged students to bring their homework in on time.

The one thing I am going to incorporate this year, is they are going to have to write their answers in complete sentences.  This is one way I am trying to use writing in the math classroom.

The Fundamental Five – my take on this book

When we checked out at the end of the year, we were given the task of reading the book: “The Fundamental 5: The Formula for Quality Instruction” by Sean Cain and Mike Laird. Image I’ll be honest,  I wasn’t really looking forward to reading this over the summer, and so I left it until this last week of my summer.  But I did read it before my meeting Monday morning.  I was actually quite surprised by what I read and plan to implement the “Fundamental 5″ in my classroom this year (to the best of my ability).  So I want to list out what the Fundamental 5 are to share with you and so I can put into words what I am planning to do in my classroom.

The Fundamental Five practices are:

  1. Frame the Lesson
  2. Work in the Power Zone
  3. Frequent, Small-Group, Purposeful Talk about the learning
  4. Recognize and Reinforce
  5. Write Critically

Framing the lesson is where we deliberately state the learning objective at the beginning of the lesson in a concrete, student-friendly language in the form of a “we will” statement.  Then end the lesson with a closing question, product, or task that is in the same form but as an “I will” statement.  They ended the chapter describing the lesson frame as an Oreo cookie.  The two objective statements are the chocolate cookie and the great instruction and fun we have in class is the yummy filling.

Working in the power zone is probably the most known to all teachers.  Proximity.  But not just proximity to manage behavior, but to be close to where the learning is happening.  There are three focuses in this, first is to remain in close proximity to one or more students in excess of 75% of the class period.  Second, is to purposefully arrange the classroom to facilitate teacher movement.  Finally, limit or remove teacher distractions (easier said than done, right).

Frequent, small-group, purposeful talk about the learning is the next part of the Fundamental Five.  Here we are encouraged to stop talking/teaching every ten to fifteen minutes and have groups of two to four students briefly discuss a questions related to the previous instruction or activity.  Use question stems to guide the discussion.  I am looking forward the the student retention part of this.  They say that when the students have to time to debrief with a peer, those who didn’t get it, will have a better chance of getting it now.  

The recognize and reinforce chapter was not as long as the previous one on the small groups, but it was full of information that I am still trying to filter for myself.  There are many aspects to this thought.  We can recognize and reinforce the academics, social or behavioral lives of the students.  The main thing I need to focus on is being intentional to recognize and reinforce as many aspects that I can, not just those that are extremely obvious, such as honor rolls or perfect behavior, but those who improve and really try hard.  One statement in the book was this, “Reinforcing effort can help teach students one of the most valuable lessons they can learn – the harder you try, the more successful you are.”

Finally, the last of the five is to write critically.  I don’t know about you, but I’m a math teacher and this does not come easily to me.  I agree and believe that students should write in all areas including math, but again, for me to remember to include it all the time and to make it meaningful to my students (and me) is that hard part.  Some of the things that caught my attention about this is that writing critically increased the amount of material that can be recalled by the learner.  It also allows the teacher to stretch the rigor of any lesson.  These are two things that I want to do in my class, so I will work on it and try it this year. 

I am now glad that I read this book.  I am looking forward to this year and I am going to try all of this to help my students be more successful than ever.  It’s a little scary, change always is, so all I can do is be intentional in my lessons every day and see what happens.


MS Sunday Funday – Goals for the new year…

This will be the third year that I am in my classroom and I am lucky to have a campus that did not require me to take all my posters down, so that is still the same.  I am adding a few things to the walls.  The main thing I am changing is the desk arrangements.  I have been so crowded in my classroom depending on how I arrange my student’s desks, so I had to make some sacrifices and get rid of a table and an old student computer (that didn’t really work anyway.)  I am trying to make more room so the students and I can move around more.  This will help me be in the Power Zone and more accessible to the students as we are learning.  I haven’t taken pictures yet as I am still trying to decide on how to arrange it all.  Do I put the desks in groups (really takes up a lot of room, but good for group work) or have them in rows.  I like this the best, but need to see what my new principal expects.

My Goals for this year?  My main goal to increase student retention.  I have felt in the past that I do well teaching the concepts to them, and they do well when I quiz them over the material but later in the year they don’t remember well enough to master the state assessment.  A book that my campus read over the summer has inspired me about this and I will be writing a separate blog about that in the next day or two.  Some other goals I have is to keep up with absent student work and to just be more organized, period.  I am a hoarder and stacker.  I usually have so many stacks of paper in my room that you cannot even see my desk.  My goal here is to trash (recycle) when I no longer need it.

Finally, this will be my first year to have a student teacher.  I hope that I can help him in any way that I can, but also be willing to relinquish control of my classroom and students when the time comes (I take their learning very personally.)  If you have had a student teacher before and can give me advice, I would greatly appreciate it.

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