Math = Love

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

On Blogging

I wish I knew why blogging has been so difficult for me lately.

Today is day #245 of 2014.  This marks blog post #182 of the year.  182 blog posts in 245 days.  What this means is that I've written a new blog post approximately 75% of the days of this year.  (This isn't entirely true.  I tend to blog in spurts.  I will sometimes take a few hours to sit and right out 4 or 5 blog posts at once.  Then, I schedule them to be posted on separate days.  Life gets in the way, so I blog when I have time to do so.)  However, I've written sporadically lately.  It's not that I don't have something to say.  Anybody who knows me knows that I have a TON to say.  When I get to writing, I have a tendency to over share.

I think Twitter Math Camp was a wake-up call to me.  Before TMC, I knew that a lot of people read my blog.  After all, I watch my page views and referral links religiously.  What I didn't really know was that a lot of math teacher bloggers who I look up to and highly respect also read my blog.  These are the people whose blogs I started reading when I was in high school and college.  Everything I know about teaching math was learned from these people.  When they came up and introduced themselves to me at TMC, I was floored.  You know who I am?  You've read my blog?  I should be gushing to you about how I love your blog and how it has changed my life.  

Lesson learned.  Just because someone has never left a comment on your blog or sent you a tweet, it doesn't mean that they aren't reading your blog.  I guess realizing just who is reading my blog has made me more hesitant to post.  It really shouldn't matter.  These people read my blog before I knew they were reading it.  I don't think I'm going to run them off with my honesty.          

I also recently made the decision to be more open with people I know in real life about my blogging.  This has meant telling my students that I write a blog.  Now, whenever I take a picture or write down something someone says, they ask, "Am I going to be on your blog?"  One class wanted to know exactly what my blog was called.  There was laughter and groans when I revealed the name.  This has also meant telling coworkers about my blog.  I don't know if any of them have actually done a search to find it, though.  I've told parents of students about my blog.  That may be the scariest one of all!  Then, I've faced the dilemma of whether I should mention the fact that I write a blog about teaching math to someone I've been set up on a blind date with.  I've come to the conclusion that if a guy things I'm crazy for blogging about teaching math, he's probably NOT the type of guy I want to marry.  Though, if a guy did set down and read all of the 394 blog posts I've written, I might question his sanity.  :)

I wonder sometimes what impression people have of me based on my little corner of the web.  This blog has became something I never expected it to become.  I have became a teacher I never expected to become.  I take risks.  I make mistakes.  I love my kids like crazy.  I teach them more math than they ever though possible.  I make math fun.  I have the chance to become not just a teacher but a teacher leader.  This blog is one of my steps toward that goal.

I need to go back and remember why I blog, though.  I blog for me.  I blog because I process best through written reflection.  I blog because I have a terrible memory.  How did I teach this topic last year?  Let's go back and read the blog post about it.  I blog because I desire community.  My blog made me a part of the MTBoS.  I blog because I have a desire to share.  I blog because I believe that my sharing will lead others to share.  I blog because I want my impact to expand beyond the city limits of Drumright, Oklahoma.  I blog to connect.

From here on out, I will stop apologizing about what I blog about.  I blog for me, not you.  I will not feel guilty when I do not blog.  My blogging will happen based on what I need.  Dan Meyer told us to be selfish.  I'm taking his advice.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Pencil Sharpener Giveaway Winner

I hope y'all are having an enjoyable Labor Day Weekend!  

Today's a very special day.  I finally get to announce the winner of the free pencil sharpener giveaway from Classroom Friendly Supplies!  I was astounded to learn that there were 643 total entries in the giveaway.  Wow!    

Drum roll, please!  

The winner is:

Chrissy Konyha (@ckonyha)

Congrats Chrissy!  I hope you and your precious third graders enjoy the new pencil sharpener!  

Send me an e-mail at mathequalslove (at) gmail (dot) come with your mailing address and your choice of color (red, green, black, blue, or pink) to claim your prize!  

For those of you who didn't win, you can still get 5% off your order of a pencil sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies with the coupon code QPCCKW.  Hurry, though, because the coupon code expires November 1, 2014!  

Not sure why this pencil sharpener is such a big deal?  Check out my review here.  And, my update here.    

Monday, August 25, 2014

Math Teachers At Play: Blog Carnival Edition # 77

Welcome to the 77th edition of the Math Teachers at Play Blog Carnival!  I'm super excited to be hosting this carnival because I've been reading it for years!  Yes, I am that crazy person who started reading math teacher blogs as a high school junior.  I think you are going to enjoy going through the submissions.  I know I found several new-to-me blogs to add to my RSS reader!

But, first, facts about the number 77.

77 is the smallest positive integer requiring five syllables in English.
77 is the sum of the first eight prime numbers.
It is possible for a Sudoku puzzle to have 77 given numbers and still lack a unique solution.
The 12th perfect number has 77 digits.

Want more information about the MTaP Blog Carnival?  Want to host it at your blog?  Want to submit a favorite blog post?  Click here for more info.

Finally, on to the submissions!

Teaching Math To Kids

Cody Meirick believes that algebra begins in pre-kindergarten (or before).  Check out these suggestions of some suggestions of books that may inspire you to explore algebraic thinking with your children.

Crystal Wagner at Triumphant Learning says that children benefit the most from manipulatives when they help create their own manipulatives.  She blogs about how to make your own abacus out of materials you probably already have around your house.  Also, learn how she uses dominoes to teach sorting, classifying, patterning, and sequencing.

Bon Crowder responds to an anti-CCSS photograph that's been floating around Facebook.  She compares different algorithms for subtraction and encourages teachers to explore different methods of solving the same problem with their students.

Julie, a homeschooling mom, shares several activities she has done to teach her kids math in a fun, hands-on way.  She provides complete and detailed instructions to construct your own four star mandala, and the posters her kids made to describe the platonic solids are amazing!

Denise Gaskins shares some new touches she added to the old Math War Game.  She was inspired by some presentations given at Twitter Math Camp this summer.

Teaching Math To Teenagers 

Lisa Bejarano shares how she combined Kagan strategies and the Frayer Model to start out the year exploring definitions in geometry.

Katie Steckles and Peter Rowlett have started a podcast aimed at teachers and students in years 10-13 (UK System) to highlight how people use mathematics in their work.  Each episode is roughly 25 minutes long and includes a fun mathematical puzzle.  Check it out!

Jo Morgan is a UK math teacher who has been collecting awesome ideas shared by the MTBoS (Math-Twitter-Blogosphere) on her blog.  Here's her first installment of 6 maths gems found around the web.

Elissa Miller provides a template to create your own wheels for practicing solving one and two step equations.  Students can easily check their work when done solving.

Lisa Winer is a fairly new blogger who has been teaching math for 25 years.  Her blog is called Eat Play Math and combines her love of math, teaching, and cooking.  Check out her first blog post to learn more about her passions.

At TMC14, Rebecka Peterson shared two of her favorite things: Friday Letters and the Mathematician Spotlight.  Visit her blog to learn more about these strategies to get to know your students better and to get your students researching famous mathematicians.

Paul Collins shares a new, creative homework strategy he is using.  Read about how this new approach is engaging his students and producing fantastic student work.  Also, take some time to read about his efforts at promoting numeracy across the curriculum.  

Celeste Sinclair shares fun ways to get your students learning outside the math classroom.  Her math scavenger hunt looks super fun!

Teaching Math In General

Andrew Shauver shares why he isn't THAT worried about the future of math education.  Visit his blog to find links to math educators who he considers are doing things right and sharing resources in the process.  

Stephen Cavadino offers a list of five books that he advises mathematics teachers to buy to improve their instruction.  One of the books recommended by Stephen is Tina Cardone's Nix the Tricks.  Download this free book to learn how to avoid teaching shortcuts that cut out math development.  

Classroom Decorations, Back to School, and More!

Margo Gentile shares a fun, pencil forest she made to manage pencil use in her classroom.  She even provides ideas on how to use it to reinforce graphing skills.

Amy Fine writes about her plan this year to create dynamic displays that change throughout the year according to what they are learning in her sixth grade math class.

Jacqueline Richardson shares pictures of her adorable middle school math classroom where she challenges students to "Do Math Like A Champion Today."

Pam Wilson created an awesome bulletin board in her classroom with accountable talk starters.  During the first week of class, she models and encourages students to agree, disagree, state their claim/warrant, etc.

Gretchen Watson is an Algebra 2 teacher who loves The Big Bang Theory.  Check out her Big Bang Theory themed math classroom and syllabus.

Do you know of an awesome link that's missing?  Add it in the comments!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Pencil Sharpener GIVEAWAY

Happy Sunday!

Remember my excitement over my new pencil sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies?  If you missed it, you simply must check out my review and overly enthusiastic youtube video.  :)  Keep reading for your chance to win a pencil sharpener of your very own!

It's time for a pencil sharpener update.  

 Good news.  We're 7 days into the school year, and the pencil sharpener is holding up marvelously.

So far, I haven't caught any of my students taking selfies with their freshly sharpened pencils, but they have been taking full advantage of the new pencil sharpener.  And, I occasionally see them admiring the perfectly sharp pencil points it produces.

One student brought in 24 pencils to sharpen in my classroom!  I think it's safe to say that he approves of the pencil sharpener!  There is a learning curve to using this pencil sharpener, but I think we're finally getting past that.  If you're wondering how this pencil sharpener could possibly have a learning curve, then you obviously didn't watch my video.  Scroll up and watch now!    

Now that we're working on interactive notebooks, the markers and colored pencils have started coming out on a daily basis.  And, I'm even more in love with the pencil sharpener now.

How is this possible?  Let's think about what normally happens when students are using colored pencils.  You're giving notes.  They're taking notes.  The color of pencil that they want to use is broken.  Instead of choosing a different color, they insist on sharpening their pencil right then.  So, they exit their seat and go to the noisy manual pencil sharpener on the wall or the even more noisy electric pencil sharpener by the electrical outlet.  You end up having to stop your lesson while the student sharpens their pencil.  If you're lucky, your students will use a handheld sharpener at their desk.  You'll be able to continue with your lesson, but the janitor will hate you because these handheld sharpeners seem to make a huge mess every single time.

I don't have my pretty, pink pencil sharpener fastened to anything, so students can take it to their desks to use.  While working on notebooks the other day, the students were passing the pencil sharpener from desk to desk as other students needed it.  And, (gasp!) they were sharpening pencils at the same time as I was talking, and it WASN'T a distraction!  This pencil sharpener really is that quiet!

Friday, one of my students looked at the pencil sharpener and remarked, "This thing needs to be emptied!"  And, he proceeded to empty my pencil sharpener for me.  I call this a win!  I knew I was going to love the fact that the pencil shaving holder was clear!

Have I sold you on the fact that you need one of these pencil sharpeners for your classroom?

I have a coupon code worth 5% off your purchase at  Enter this code at checkout: QPCCKW.  Code expires November 1, 2014!

More exciting news!  Troy has offered to give away a free pencil sharpener to one of my readers!  This contest is only open to U.S. residents.  Sorry, international readers!  The contest will run from today (8/24/14) through 12:00 AM on 9/1/14.  Find out how to enter below.  I can't wait to see who the lucky winner is!  (P.S.  You even get to pick your own color of pencil sharpener!  But, we all know you're going to pick pink so you can be just like me...)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, August 23, 2014

In The Zone... [A New Poster For My Classroom]

So, it's Saturday morning.  I told myself that I was going to spend all day Saturday working on getting all of my activities planned, quizzes written, and copies made for the upcoming week.  Let's see.  I've finished a novel this morning.  I've decided what each class will be doing each day next week.  I've been working on getting my bloglovin feed caught up.  Only 640 more blog posts to read!  In my defense, it was over 800 this morning when I started.  So, I have made some progress.  I've spent a little time on twitter.  And, my second load of laundry of the day is currently spinning around in the washing machine.  And, I ordered my first Staples Engineering Print.

So, before I delve into a few hours of writing quizzes and homework assignments, I want to share my latest poster creation.  I can't show you the finished product, because, well, it's not exactly finished yet.  This is what I ordered from Staples online this morning.  I won't pick it up until tomorrow afternoon.  And, then I will still have to laminate it.  Except, Mardel isn't open on Sundays, so it may be a week or two before this finds a home in my classroom.

I know exactly what you are thinking right now.  You're thinking, "Sarah, have you lost your mind?  We've seen the pictures of your classroom.  You do realize that there is absolutely zero blank wall space in your classroom to hang a new poster, right?"  And, to that, I say, "Uhhhhhh, I will have you know that there are two places in my classroom that I have yet to decorate.  And, they feel kinda left out.  They are just begging to have some on them."  

This poster was inspired by the lovely Beth Ferguson's blog.  We're both working on instilling a growth mindset in our students this year.  Isn't her bulletin board just lovely?

When I saw Beth's "In what Zone are YOU?" poster, I knew I had to have one!  Since my sister is an art major education major, I asked her for advice in making my own version of this poster.  Secretly, I was hoping she would do the project for me.  Nope.  She suggested that I design the poster on the computer and print it off because she didn't think I would be happy with the results if we tried to make one by hand.  We both tend to be perfectionists.  Plus, I'm not an artist.  Oops.  I guess that's the fixed mindset coming out.  I haven't trained my brain in art.  Learning art would be doable, but it would take time and effort.

My students prefer the comfort zone.  Hello, I prefer my own comfort zone.  Since graduating from college, God and I have been working on this a lot.  He's continually placing me in situations that pull me out of my comfort zone.  Though I dread these situations, they have actually all turned out great.  Leaving my comfort zone hasn't killed me, and I've actually enjoyed it.  He's been there with me every single step of the way.  I'm becoming a different person.  A happier person.  A more confident person.  I'm slowly but surely learning to go after what I want instead of what I *think* that others would prefer me to do.  I'm not going to lie and say the journey to where I am today has been easy.  It hasn't.  But, I'm a better, stronger person for having gone through it.    

In my relationship with God, He is constantly pulling me out of my comfort zone into the learning zone.  In the learning zone, we attempt things that we think are beyond our abilities, but these are things we CAN accomplish with hard work and support.  The panic zone exists beyond the learning zone.  These are things that we do not have the ability or support to do YET.  (See, there's growth mindset showing up again!)

As one of my 30 Awesome Facts You Should Probably Know About Ms. Hagan, I shared with my students that I failed swimming lessons.  Multiple times.  I think when I introduce these zones to my students, I will use this analogy:

For me, my comfort zone would be a hotel swimming pool.  You know, the kind where the water only gets 5 feet deep.  I'm 5'7", so I can swim around the pool without worrying about drowning.  Whenever I attempt to swim laps and end up swallowing a bunch of water in my attempts to breathe while swimming like I see them do in the Summer Olympics, all I have to do is stand up.  My feet will touch the bottom of the pool.  Life will be okay.  

My learning zone would be the city swimming pool.  The water is deeper there.  They actually allow diving.  There are places in the pool where I can't stand up.  If I'm attempting to swim laps and start to realize that it's too much for me, I have several options.  I can attempt to swim to the side of the pool and hang onto the edge.  Or, I can signal to the life guard that I'm in distress.  It's still a safe place, but I'm having to take more risks.  The stakes are higher, but they shouldn't lead to my death.

My panic zone would be if somebody took me out in the middle of the lake or ocean in their boat, let me jump into the water and then drove off.  Seeing as I can't tread water, this would not be a good situation to find myself in.  There is no lifeguard.  There is no ability to just to put my feet down and stand up.  I'm on my own in a situation I'm not prepared for.

My goal is that my classroom is structured so that my students are always in the learning zone.  If we're doing stuff that they can do in their sleep, I haven't done my job.  If they feel like they are drowning and I'm not there to help them, I'm not doing my job.  If they feel like what we are doing is difficult but know that I'm there to support them every step of the way, then we're making progress.

I think it would be great to have students assess on a weekly/monthly (?) basis what zone they feel like they are in and why.  Could be eye-opening!  Maybe make this an exit ticket???

Here's my first attempt at the poster:

I'm not 100% happy with this.  The program I used to make the font curved added the shadows behind the font.  I like how the shadows look on the large print words, but I think the shadow makes "Comfort Zone" kinda hard to read.  I tried to take off the shadow, but I couldn't figure it out.

I designed this to print as an 18" x 24" poster since that is the smallest size for Staples engineering prints.  I'm hoping that it will look fine when printed so largely.  If not, I've only wasted $1.86.  If I don't like how it looks, I'll go back to the drawing board and try again.

PDF and editable ODG files for the poster can be downloaded here.  

I'll update everyone on how my first engineering print comes out!  

Friday, August 22, 2014

Things Teenagers Say Volume 14

My students this year, especially my freshman are hilarious. I literally laugh all day long.

Here's the first edition of Things Teenagers Say 2014-2015!  All of these statements are from the first day of school.  It old you my students are funny!  

See previous installments of Things Teenagers Say below:

Volume 1 | Volume 2 | Volume 3 | Volume 4 | Volume 5  
Volume 6 | Volume 7 | Volume 8 | Volume 9 | Volume 10
Volume 11 | Volume 12 | Volume 13 

After sharing with the class that I'm a vegetarian:

"You mean being a vegetarian is a choice and not a sickness? I thought it was a disease. Why would someone choose that?"


After hearing that I was blogging when my Algebra 2 students were taking Algebra 1 with me:

"Did you give us code names on your blog?"


After sharing with my students what type of car I drive:

Me: I don't understand why students always want to know what type of car I drive.  But, I'm going to tell you anyway.  I hope you're not going to key my car now that you know what I drive.  PLEASE don't key my car!
Student: Why would I key your car when I could steal your car?


After explaining my consequences for breaking rules which involves having your name written on the board:

"Can our twitter name go on the discipline wall so everybody can follow me?"

"So, it’s really the “Wall of Shame.”"


After reminding my students of my upcoming birthday while they were attempting to solve IQ Circle Puzzles:

"If you keep giving us hard puzzles like this to solve, there won’t be any birthday cake or presents for you."


"Ms. Hagan, is your house number 314?  Because that would be really cool if you had pi as your house number!"

"Can we write a math problem for you to put on your mailbox instead of a house number? I think that would be so cool."


A repeat Algebra 1 student excitedly asked: 

"Are we going to bungee jump with the rubber bands again?"  

I guess Barbie Bungee was a memorable experience!  The rest of the class was super confused.  


After going over my classroom rules that include "No Cursing" and "No Electronics."  If a student's phone is seen out in class and we are not doing an activity that is supposed to involve cell phones, their cell phone is taken away for the rest of the day.  

One student was worried about what would happen if they accidentally broke two of the rules at once.

"What if my ringtone has cuss words in it and I don’t know it and it goes off during class?"


Overheard while working on the IQ circle puzzle:

Student 1: "We’re cooking with butter now."
Student 2: "Actually, it’s peanut oil."


The next one made me want to cry.  

Student: "Why do you have a cursive R on the wall?"
Me: "Ummm…That’s not an r.  That's a pi symbol."
Student: "Well, it looks like a cursive R."


While waiting on everybody to sit in their seats quietly so I can dismiss the class: 

Student: "Do you have to sneeze?"
Me: No. I’m waiting for everyone to sit down and be quiet before I dismiss you.


It's funny how stories get twisted as they are told from student to student.

First words out of a student's mouth when they walk in my classroom on the first day of school:

"I hear you’re not supposed to talk in this class unless you have a monkey. Is that true?"  

This is what you get when you ask students to share random facts about themselves:

"I have 10 fingers."

"I’m a redneck." 


"I can’t wait for my last hour class. It’s Marriage. I want to marry a hot guy. I want to marry Brad Pitt."  


My sister gave me this fun desk toy.  My students are MESMERIZED by it.  

Student 1: "I’ve got my money on blue!"
Student 2: "My money's on pink."
Student 1: "If our class ends before this finishes, you’ll have to tell us who wins!"


Upon hearing my no cell phone rule:

"What if we forget our tweet during class because we’re not allowed to have our phones out? My followers depend on me!"

Thursday, August 21, 2014

First Day of School 2014 - Introductions, Circles, Rules, a Monkey, and More

This year I decided to change up how I went about Day 1 in my classroom.  Considering the fact that I also changed up things last year for Day 1, you can safely say that I've never done Day 1 the same way twice.  :)

Year 1 Day 1 - Plans; Reflection
Year 2 Day 1 - Plans; Reflection
Year 3 Day 1 - You are here!

Totally goofed on the math problem for the countdown.  School pictures was in 10 days not 2 days!  Totally should have been a 2 in the denominator.  Luckily, none of my students noticed and showed up on Saturday for school pictures!  :)  
I greeted students in the hallway for the first day.  My first year of teaching, I did a great job of spending passing periods in the hall.  The math teacher across the hall from me was a first year teacher as well that year, so we offered each other lots of moral support.  I spent a lot of time in the hall practicing names.  When you teach in a school with less than two hundred students, there is an expectation that everybody knows everybody's name.  I'm not sure what caused it, but I was hardly out in the hall last year at all.  Most of the time I would spent the passing periods at my desk trying to get organized for my next class.  Or, I would sit at my desk and relish a moment of doing nothing.  But, I feel like I missed out on seeing the kids that weren't "my kids" that year.

This year, I'm determined to be a presence in the hall.  I want to be that friendly face that tells students "Good Morning!"  I want to keep in touch with the students who are in geometry this year.  My freshman are taking advantage of my being in the hall by asking for reminders of where various classrooms are.  Our schedules this year listed all of the room numbers as "Unknown," so they have nothing to go by except the name of the teacher.  We don't have a ton of teachers, but there are three different floors.  I can't imagine being in a new school with new teachers and not being able to look up where my next class is located.

When students entered my classroom on the first day, this message was on the SMART Board.  Algebra 2 and Trig classes got the same message.  I just changed the name of the class.

On the desk in the doorway, there was tub holding ziplock bags of tangrams and IQ circles.

I bought my tub of tangrams a while back from Amazon.  Love them!  I'm assuming that y'all know all there is to know about tangrams.

The IQ circles are a new addition to my classroom courtesy of my mom and her awesome bargain hunting skills.  I'm pretty sure she paid a dollar for the entire tub of these puzzlers.

Inside each box, there is a black, circular case.  My students claimed that these looked like they held makeup!  

And, inside each case are pieces to make a circle.  
The box claims that there are more than 10 ways to build a circle out of these pieces.  I dumped out the pieces of one of the puzzles to try.  Fifteen minutes later, I still wasn't able to put the circle together.  I knew that it had to be possible because I had just dumped out a completed circle.  I put the puzzle aside out of frustration, and my sister ended up completing it for me.  We're super competitive, so that made me feel great!  
To ensure that my students wouldn't take the easy way out and try to cheat, I dumped all of the circle puzzles into their own individual ziplock bags.  But, before I did that, I opened all of the puzzles up and took pictures of them in their solved states.  I counted twelve different solutions in my box.  Twelve different solutions and I couldn't even find one on my own...

Students who picked up bag of tangrams were instructed to make a square using all of the tangram pieces.  Students who picked up a bag of circle pieces were to make a circle.  Some of the students tried to make circles out of the tangram pieces.  That didn't quite work out for them.  Other students didn't realize that they were supposed to build the circle in the black case.  Students worked on these puzzles while I took roll and did some first day of school administrative stuff.

Our first day of school was on a Thursday, so this fit perfectly for Brain Teaser Thursday.

Students were still working on their puzzles when I began my introduction of myself.  I had a few students who were able to complete the circle or square, but the majority of students were unable to complete them in the allotted time.

I already blogged about my 30 Awesome Facts You Should Probably Know About Ms. Hagan presentation here.  Some students listened better than others.  Some were too involved with trying to solve their puzzles to pay much attention to me.  Oh well.  Sharing facts about myself led to some great conversations!  It gave my students a view of me outside the classroom.  I think they needed to be reminded that teachers are real people with real lives, too.  :)

Next, I wanted a chance to get to know my students better.  I've already taught approximately 40% of my students before.  So, some I know quite well.  Others I just met.

At #TMC14, I was part of Elizabeth's Group Work Working Group.  It was truly one of the highlights of my TMC experience.  One of the activities we participated in was a classroom circle.  Classroom circles are based on restorative practices.  I'm not entirely sure what that means, but maybe it is enlightening to somebody? LOL.  What I do know is that there is power in meeting in the circle format.    

First, I had to teach my students how to make a circle.  For classroom circles, this just means that everybody needs to be able to see everybody else in the circle.  During this time, I allow students to stay in their seats, stand, or even sit on the furniture.  If they make a square, that's completely fine as long as everybody can see everybody.

Next, the rules of the circle: no talking unless you are holding the talking piece.  At TMC, Elizabeth had a dodecahedron that she had knitted that we used as a talking piece.  I can knit, but I haven't found the time to sit down and knit my own dodecahedron yet.  [Fun fact of the day:  Before I was a math teacher blogger, I was a knitting blogger.  Because it's totally normal for a 15 year old to start writing a blog about knitting, right?]  I knew that I wanted to do a classroom circle on the first day of school to let students introduce themselves.  But, I didn't really think it through and plan my talking piece.  Scanning my room on the morning of the first day, I saw my stuffed monkey.  He was a Valentine's gift from a couple of students last year.

This will do.  This monkey will become a sort of mascot for my class.  I let my first hour name the monkey.  They voted on Henry.  So, if you're in the circle, you can't talk unless you're holding Henry.  Another rule follows from this: No Commenting.  This is SO hard for me.  When a student says something, I'm used to making some sort of comment.  Students do have the option of raising their hand to indicate that they wish to have the talking piece.  Once Henry is in their hands, they can speak.

Having just introduced myself, I told students that I now wanted to know more about them.  We were going to go around the circle.  Each person would say their name and a fact about themselves that they wanted to share with the class.  Students also found the no commenting rule hard.

I love the circle structure for several reasons.  Number one.  I suck at classroom management.  Keeping the room quiet and the students focused is hard for me.  Number two.  I love to have students share with the class.  But, side conversations have a tendency to start, and I always feel bad that the later sharers receive less attention from the class as a result.  The circle structure keeps everyone focused.  One person has the talking piece.  One person is the focus.  That person is the focus as long as they feel they need to be.  Some students shared something a quick fact.  Others told a more involved anecdote.  Every student listened to every other student.  And, every student knew that they were being listened to.  Every student got a chance to speak.

I'm modifying my Good Things routine this year based on classroom circles.  We will create a circle before sharing.  And, students will have to hold the monkey in order to share their good thing.  I think this is going to be a positive change this year!  I just need to work on the no commenting rule!

Now, my 4th hour Trig class had to be difficult.  They decided that they didn't like the monkey's name.  Instead of Henry, they decided that the monkey was a she and should be called Cinnamon.  Do you realize how crazy you sound when you say things like, "You are not allowed to speak unless you are holding Cinnamon."  One student said he was going to go to the store and buy a container of cinnamon so he would always have the right to speak.

Since we're over a week in school, here's an update to the monkey situation.  Downside to having a monkey as your talking piece: students tell other teachers in the building things like "Ms. Hagan has this monkey in her classroom, and it's a stripper monkey.  It hangs out on a pole.  And, it even has a stripper name: Cinnamon."  NOT what I intended.  :)

Next, I announced to my students that they needed to take out their cell phones.  Some were hesitant to do this because they assumed that I was trying to trick them and was going to take them away if they got them out.  Nope.  I just wanted them to sign up for text message alerts from Remind.

I wrote the instructions for signing up on the board during meet the teacher night, but I think I had a grand total of one sign up as a result.

Next up: discussion of supplies for INBs.  This year, I gave students a list of optional supplies for the first time.  I provide glue, colored pencils, markers, highlighters, and dry erase markers for my students.  But, over the past two years, I have found that some students wish to have their own.  After all, markers that have been used by 100 students quickly become less than perfect.  I've had several students in the past buy their own sets of markers or colored pencils, and they have seemed to be happy with that.

And, then comes the time to get serious.  My 5 new classroom rules for this year.  These are inspired by Harry Wong's The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher.  For students who have had me before, these are drastically different rules/consequences than I have ever had in my classroom.

Here are my consequences:

Students weren't too thrilled with the consequences.  They did seem to be more okay with them after I mentioned that names on the board would be erased at the end of each week.  So, they can break one rule each week without punishment.

Next, I asked my students to write a tweet about what they thought intelligence was.  I created the hash tag #IntelligenceIs for this.  This confused my students SO much.  Maybe it was the font I used???  They thought the I in "Is" was an L.  "Ms. Hagan, what is Intelligencels?"

I'm also pretty sure that my students are not major tweeters because they had a ton of trouble understanding the meaning of 140 characters.  In fact, one of my students even told me that twitter was not cool.  Ummm...I beg to differ.  :)

Here's the strips I made for my students to write their #IntelligenceIs tweets on.

My first year of teaching, I had my students write #MathIs tweets.  I feel like these were much more fun and enlightening to read.  But, you never know until you try something new.

Download the #IntelligenceIs Tweet Strips here.  

The idea behind #IntelligenceIs was to see what my students thought about intelligence in regards to growth mindset/fixed mindset.  I was hoping to have time the first day to give my students a growth mindset quiz that I adapted from online, but we ran out of time.  So, they didn't get to see this terrifying slide until Day 2.  :)

Oh, and I can't forget to mention one of the most important things we did on the first day of school.  I taught the students how to use my new pencil sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies!


I posted a full review of this awesome pencil sharpener complete with an enthusiastic how-to video of myself using this pencil sharpener on youtube.  If you've ever wondered what it would be like to be a student in my class, this video should give you a good idea of that.  If you decide to order one of these for your own classroom (and you totally should!) there's a coupon code for 5% off your purchase at the bottom of my review.  

After I sharpened a pencil in front of the class, I invited volunteers to come up and try the pencil sharpener.  I was notified by one student that "This isn't the 19th century any more.  People use mechanical pencils nowadays, Ms. Hagan!"

Day 1 ended with a reminder of what happens when the bell rings.

This is a big change for me.  I've overlooked it in the past when students got out of their seats and started lining up at the door.  Not this year!  I won't dismiss students until they are all seated, all supplies are put away, and all the trash is picked up off the floor.

Day 1 was fun.  I have an especially large, especially fun bunch of kiddos this year.  I think it's going to be a GREAT year!