Friday, August 31, 2012

#MyFavFriday - Embedded Formative Assessment

I just finished reading Embedded Formative Assessment by Dylan Wiliam.  Loved it.  It will change the way you think about teaching.

So, this week, I'm going to write about my current favorite "work" book.

Mr. Wiliam starts the book by explaining why student success is so important and how to improve it.  There are some things in that first chapter that never occurred to me.  Did you know that it is within our power as teachers to eliminate the national debt?  No, not with our paychecks (obviously).  He raises some good ideas about how to improve students performance too.

In the second chapter he discusses what formative assessment is.  Interesting stuff there.

Then he gets into the good stuff, the next 5 chapters give what he believes are the five key strategies of classroom formative assessment.  It is in these pages where you will find all kinds of classroom goodies.  I have so many pages dog-eared that it's ridiculous.  There are ideas in there that you can use next period.  Seriously, go get the book.  You won't be sorry.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Survey Posters

First I want to say that this idea was stolen from Square Root of Negative One Teach Math.  So if you steal this idea too, please give her the credit.  

I first wrote about this in this post.

Yesterday was the first student day here at JTHS.  Each class was given their own color sticker.  

You can see that we have a lot of students in our district that lived most of their life somewhere other than Jim Thorpe.  No one from a different country though.  

It never occurred to me that student might put their sticker on a line.  I suppose that's thinking outside the box.    You can see that from this poster to the next, most students want a grade better than they usually get.  

Just look at all those goals of As and Bs!!

Only three people like to ready.  I'm in the minority.

Lots of my students have ambitions for College.

I knew that it would drive me crazy if I didn't remember which class was assigned what color, so I made this key for myself.  

Monday, August 27, 2012

#Made4Math August 27 Discriminant Foldable

A few days ago I listened in on an online conference about foldables with @jreulbach.  
You too can hear and participate in these at Big Marker.

Since then, I have been spinning my wheels about what foldables I could use in my own classroom.  Here is my first attempt.

You can download the file here.

I took @jreulbach's suggestion to have some of the foldable typed up ahead of time.  

My foldable is about the discriminant.  
The upper left quarter is about the formula, where it comes from and why it work.
The upper right is information when the discriminant = 0
The lower left is when the discriminant > 0
The lower right is when the discriminant < 0.

Upper Left 

Upper Right

Lower Left

Lower Right

Friday, August 24, 2012

Video Pals - Part 1

I have this idea in my head and need to flesh it out on paper (well blogging I guess).  I'm thinking about making my students video pals (like pen pals) with other students of mine.

As you read, please keep this in mind:  This activity only exists in my head right now, I've never tried it.  I'd love your feedback and opinion (good or bad).

Here it goes:

I teach two different courses this year; Algebra 1B and Pre-Calculus.
I want to find a topic that is challenging for Algebra 1B yet not too easy for Pre-Calculus.

I'm going to assign partners in each class (both Algebra and Pre-Calc).

I'll start with giving the Algebra pairs something challenging, like a packet, or activity, or real life problem, or something (help me out here).  Each Algebra pair works to formula how they are going to ask for assistance as the Pre-Calc pairs will be instructed to not do the problem for them.

The Algebra pairs video record their question(s), upload it to the computer, and e-mail(?) it to the Pre-Calc video pal.

The Pre-Calc pairs receive their video from their Algebra Video pals and work on coming up with how to help their pals, record it, and send a video back.

This will go back and forth until it's done.  Whatever "it" is.

That's as far as my thought process went.  Now my questions for you....

1) Has anyone done anything like this before?
2) Any suggestions as to what topic I could try?
3) What are the Algebra 1 students trying to do?  Are they answering problems?  Are they completing an activity?  Are they building something?
4) How do the pals share their videos with each other easily?
5) I'm overwhelmed now.   Should I start with pencil and paper rather than video OR be brave and JUST DO IT?

#MyFavFriday August 24 Sustained Energy

This is my favorite breakfast:  I love it because it keeps me going for about 4-5 hours, it takes me 60 seconds to prep in the morning, it's healthy, and it tastes good.

I make 2 batches of this every weekend and reheat one serving each morning.  

Blueberry Oatmeal Bake:


1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (divided)
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 scoop vanilla protein powder
1/4 Cup maple syrup
1 Cup milk
1 egg
2 TBSP plain greek yogurt
2 ripe bananas
1 cup frozen blueberries (divided)

Mix the following ingredients in a bowl:
old-fashioned rolled oats
half the chopped walnuts
baking powder
vanilla protein powder

In another bowl whisk:
maple syrup
plain greek yogurt

Grease a 2 quart baking dish
Slice 2 bananas and arrange in a single layer in the baking dish
Top with 1/2 cup of blueberries
Sprinkle the dry mixture over the berries
Pour in wet ingredients
top with remaining walnuts and blueberries

Bake at 375 degree for 40 minutes.

Once cool, place in 4 separate microwavable containers and refrigerate.  

For breakfast:
Microwave for about 40-50 seconds and enjoy!!!

Nutrition Information:
Calories: 284
Carbs: 45 
Fat: 8 
Protein: 11 
Sugar: 19 

I am not a fan of hot drinks so hot coffee is out for me....but not iced coffee.  With this healthy breakfast I have a tall glass of not so healthy iced coffee.  I'm working on this though.  I'm sure pinterest will come through for me when I'm ready to switch to a healthier version of iced coffee.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Teacher Training

In my short 12-year career so far, I have worked in two different school districts. Although these are neighboring districts they were extremely different in their teacher mentoring. The first district I worked for had a graduating class of 850, the current district 150.

The first district, the larger district, PMSD had a new teacher mentoring program all laid out. They had to; the turn-over rate of teachers was (is) astronomical. They created this program to make new teachers feel a sense of belonging as well as provide additional support and professional development. One day, every two weeks, all the new teachers (1st and 2nd year) would gather together during our prep periods and be taken through PD with an administrator or senior teacher. My dirty little secret: I loved it. But I love learning and I love being challenged. I didn't speak up there, I let my actions do the speaking for me, but my colleagues spent more energy complaining than doing what was asked of them. I quote, "I'm ready to quit since they keep taking my prep period away from me." Really? We get an hour and a half prep every day and you can't sacrifice 45 minutes once every two weeks?

After two years, I added to their turn-over rate and took a job with a smaller school, JTSH. I love it at Jim Thorpe. We are a growing school district with some growing pains. About 15 years ago the graduating class was 50, now it's about 150. We are stuck between doing what we've always done - like a very small district, and growing into a larger district. Luckily, we are still a small district where all the teachers know each other and we know almost all of the students. When a teacher is hired, he is assigned a mentor. Basically, that's it formally. In our department, you are basically given 5 mentors - the rest of the department. There is no formal mentoring program and no prep periods taken away.

But here's my wish. New teachers need support. We need good teachers in our profession. I think we should ease teachers into the profession, as I feel we throw teachers into a classroom and say, "Here you go! You have 45 minutes to prepare for 270 minutes of class time."

The newest teachers are paid the least (thanks unions!!). We don't pay teachers based on the job they do, only on how long they've been in the profession. Let's take advantage of this. Give the newest teachers the least amount of classes and the most time to create lessons and participate in professional development. Let the new teachers get a good grip on teaching one course, then once they've got that, give them two courses. Keep this going until they are up to par with the rest of the faculty and salary. I don't know any statistics on this, but aren't there too many new teachers who quit within their first few years because it's too stressful? Anyone know anything about this?

Isn't this how restaurant servers are trained? They start with one table, then when they can handle it, two table, etc. They aren't given 8 tables their first day of work. Why? Because they will most likely fail and the restaurant will lose customers.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

#Made4Math August 20 Slope Spinner

Last week I shared my y-intercept slider.  This week I'd like to share my Slope Spinner.  

INB Slope Spinner from Nora Oswald on Vimeo.

You will need:

  8.5 x 11 card stock
  glue sticks
  safety pins

I started by gluing the white paper to the card stock.  You only need glue where the graph and arrow are located.  

Cut out the graph and the arrow.

With the safety pin, poke a hole in the center of the arrow (I placed a dot there) and the graph paper.
Put the brad through the arrow first, then the graph paper and open the "arms" in the back.

 Glue the back of the graph into the notebook (make sure you don't glue the brad).
I found it helpful to place a dot in my notebook where the arrow was pointing and then write the slope.


Cut the corners of your graph so that the arrowheads don't get caught on them (you can see them catching in my video).

I didn't put axes on the graph paper because I didn't want my students to think that a line needed to go through the origin to have a slope.

Definitely ask the students to point out any patterns that they notice.

Other Thoughts:

I was trying to come up with something that incorporated both my y-intercept slider and my slope spinner, but everything I was trying to do was too complicated.  I suppose I'll leave that to computer animation......for now.

Friday, August 17, 2012

#MyFavFriday August 17th (The PEMDAS game)

This is a game that I adapted from a presentation at an NCTM conference two years ago.  The presenter was Don Balka.

I'm always looking for ideas that will cover the last 5 minutes of class if needed.  I don't like giving the students down just feels like I'm not doing my job.  Here is one of my favorite activities to do when there are a few minutes of class left before the bell rings.

Start by writing a blank equation on the board and asking the students to copy this equation onto their papers.

For example:  ____ ( _____ + ______) - _____ * ______

Ask a student for a target number.  Let's say he picks 10.

Here is the equation:  ____ ( _____ + ______) - _____ * ______ = 10

I use the random integer generator on my calculator to pick the numbers.  In this case there are five blanks.

The students must write the number once it is generated and they many not change it's location.  So, the  game goes like this:  I generate a number, they write it in a blank, I generate a number, they write it in a blank, blah, blah, blah.  This continues until all the blanks are filled in.  The student(s) who is the closest to the target number wins.

When I first introduce this game I generate integers from 0 to 9.  Once they understand the rules I move to more complex equations and/or generate numbers from -9 to 9.

Even though the concept of PEMDAS might be easy for more advanced students, they still like to play the game.  The drama of the last number for some students is what makes the game.  Enjoy!!


I wrote this post a few days ago and then watched this video on The Teaching Channel.
It is geared for a 2nd grade classroom, but it completely relates to my PEMDAS game.

I like the idea of having a "trash can" for the PEMDAS game.  So, when I give the example equation above, I will now generate 6 random numbers rather than 5 and the students can throw out one number they don't want to use.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Tile FACTORy and a Request

The Tile FACTORy is a game that I've been working on in a team of four and thought I would ask for your input.  This is a game that practices the skills of recognizing/creating factorable quadratics and factoring those quadratics.

Players in the game are workers in a tile factory and a trying to collect as many tiles as possible.

Here are the rules for the game.

I created my tile boards in file folders, but you could just give each student the paper copy.

Cover Sheet

 Blank Tile Board

Tile Board with a factorable trinomial 

 The Tile Board with factorable trinomial and factorization.

Here is the tile board and cover sheet if you want to put it in a file folder. You will need one for each student.

You will need to create the game cards or tiles as I like to call them.  You will need the following:

Now for the "Request" part of my post title:

First, I would love your feedback on this game.  Any suggestions that you have are welcome.  If you play this game with your students, what did you think?  What did they think?  Do you believe the game was beneficial?  Did you change anything?  Do students ask to play it again?

I did create a pre- and post- test for my own students that you are welcome to use.  Sharing those results with me are optional but definitely welcome.




I played this game with my students, you can see the results here.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Made4Math August 13th - INB Line Slider

So, I've been seeing everyone else taking on Interactive Notebooks and I need to get involved.  For all the information I found about INB, what goes in it must be cool.  At least that seems to be a common theme of all my "research".  
Here is my contribution to INBs, Line Slider and y-intercept.

y-intercept Line Slider from Nora Oswald on Vimeo.

You'll need this printout, a 8.5 x 11 piece of card stock, a glue stick, a scissors, and either a ruler or paper cutter.  I prefer the paper cutter and I will cut the card stock for the students before class.  

Let's start with the printout:

Cut out the arrow and "graph" as shown:

Cut the cart stock the long way so that you have two pieces with the dimensions 4.5 x 11 and 4 x 11.
I may do this cutting with the paper cutter and give each student two different colors.  For example I may give a student an orange 4.5 x 11 and a blue 4 x 11.  This way the line is visually different from the background.

Rub glue on the back of the arrow, making sure to get glue to all the edges of the arrow not necessarily the edge of the white paper, and glue to the smaller piece of card stock (4 x 11).

While the glue for the above is drying, place the "graph" piece face down and center the larger piece of card stock on top like this.

Fold the "graph" paper back over the card stock.

Glue the flaps together.

Cut out the arrow.  Flip it over to show the cardstock side.

Glue the arrow to the card stock showing through the graph paper.  The slope of the line does not matter in this activity.  I think it would be great for the students to each have a different slope and see that it does not effect the y-intercept.
*Make sure you only glue to the card stock and not the white paper!!

Glue the back of the "graph" paper (white paper) into the notebook.

Have the students move their line up and down and record the y-intercept.

I found it useful to bend the top and bottom of the card stock so it's easier to hold and slide and also so the card stock doesn't fall out of the notebook.

I came up with this activity so students see how changing the y-intercept of a line changes the graph of a line and vice versa.

I'm thinking next week, I'll have an activity for slope.  Stay tuned!!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Caught Ya!!!

I never see these things.  But look at my view count...thought I was going to miss it.

My Favorite Friday August 10th (Colleagues)

I know how lucky I am.  I work with the greatest department....ever!  And what a good-looking group of people.  So this week my favorite is my department.  They totally rock!!!

Need a lesson plan idea?  Need to raise money by working at McDonald's for an evening?  Need to sell green pi day t-shirts to raise enough money to attend the annual NCTM conference because there is not enough money in the budget?  Need someone to listen to your personal problems?  Need a ride home because you locked your keys in your car?  Need a night out?  Need advice on anything?  Need someone to take your class so you can go cry your eyes out in the bathroom?  Look no further.  All of these things have happened to me and each and every time they have come through.  

Seriously, these people are not just my co-workers, they are my friends.  I go to work everyday knowing that I'm going to see friendly and supportive faces.  Sure, students can make or break your day but your colleagues can make or break your career.  I love my job and a great deal of the credit goes to the people you see above.  

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


I've been very quiet on Twitter.  The main reason is that I created the account to communicate with my students.  I would Tweet homework assignments (which you know I don't give) or upcoming events (like Flashback Days).  Anyway I have a bunch of students following me.

Then I started blogging and fell into this great bunch of other bloggers who also Tweet.  I feel that I can't really join in because I don't want my students to find my blog that has the occasional answer key.

In order to feel part of the in crowd I'm going to need to be more active on Twitter.  Therefore I created another Twitter account where I can feel more free to Tweet about my blog.

Want to find me?  I'm noraoswald.  See you on Twitter!!!

Monday, August 6, 2012

So True...

Made4Math August 6th

I thought I would share the way I distribute supplies in my classroom.  Hold on a second, let me first tell you about how I use to distribute supplies in my classroom.

Students would come into my classroom, grab the calculator assigned to them, and have a seat.

If we needed anything else for the lesson it was a huge disruption.  I might tell the students to go get a ruler, a pair of scissors, and colored pencils.  Students would forget what I told them and have to get up out of their seats while I'm giving instructions.  Whatever, it was a huge hassle.

Then I tried this:

Instead of just telling them what supplies to get, I wrote it on the board as well.
I still had too many students walking around wasting time.

Then I changed to this:

I handed out the supplies at the time it was needed in the lesson and the students stayed in their seats.  This solve my problem of students walking around the room, but it didn't solve my problem of a lot of wasted time.

I have finally found the solution and it's been working for me for the last 2 years....

Plastic Pencil Cases:

Right inside the classroom door is this bookcase with a pencil case for each student.  As they walk in the door they take the case that's been assigned to them and immediately check its contents.  If something is missing, they tell me and I figure out the previous student to use it and take appropriate action.  

Inside each pencil case:

A calculator, colored pencils, scissors, compass, protractor, earbuds, and the compass and protractor both double as rulers.  

Rarely do the students need supplies other than these.  Except pencils.  That's a post for another day.  

Friday, August 3, 2012

My Favorite Friday August 3rd

My first favorite is a favorite.  It's called "My Favorite No".  At first I thought they meant My Favorite Number.  But, they meant No
If you haven't been on The Teaching Channel yet, it's worth checking out.  This is one of my favorite ideas I plan to steal from that website. 

Basically the teacher gives a problem and all the students solve it independently.  It doesn't say it in the video, but I believe it would work best if the teacher gives a question that is digging for a misconception to clarify.  Then the teacher quickly looks through all the problems and picks one that is done incorrectly to discuss. 

I'm going to give this idea a try this year, but I may make some changes.  Such as...
I may randomly pick a problem without looking at it to see what students think.  This way I'm not telling the students whether it's right or wrong, that's up for the students to decide. 

We could look through a few problems to see if there are any trends in student thought and anything we need to go over. 

I'm blessed to work in a district where technology is supported and I have one of those document cameras.  This way I can cover the student's name and quickly display the problem for the class.

What I Learned from my High School Social Studies Teacher

Back in high school there was this Social Studies teacher (Let's call him Mr. A) that made teaching look easy....almost too easy;  like ...