The #July2014Challenge comes to an end…

…but it is only the beginning.

I am heading into my second year teaching math. During my first year, I spent it keeping my head above water while completing 10 online classes to gain my permanent teaching certificate and preaching every Sunday as an Interim Preacher at a church about an hour away. The only thing I used the web for math was to find a lesson or an idea for upcoming classes.  I figured there would be a wealth of information out there to help me, I just didn’t have time to go and find it.

This summer, I determined that I needed to find more resources to help me with the craft of teaching, and I found it through the #MTBoS.  There is a wealth of information out there, and I have gained quite of bit of information on what to do for next year, but now it is putting it into place. Here are a couple things I will implement this year:

  1. Standards Based Grading:  I love this idea, and long to implement it well in the classes.
  2. Wall of Remediation: With the new textbook series (Go Math from HMH), there is an included book with skill sheets that I can print off and have students complete.
  3. I want to reduce the stack of papers I bring home, and think that gradeable will be able to help me with this.
  4. Whiteboarding: Kelly O’Shea has a bunch of games and ideas that I think will do well for me.  I am planning on getting larger $2 white boards, but my mentor gave me 30 12″x18″ whiteboards for each student to use.
  5. An Online Math PLC:  See for more info as we go on, but I wanted to collaborate with some folks who are doing similar things, so we shall see what happens!
  6. Using more engaging tasks in class:  Dan Meyer’s 3 Act Math Tasks, Problem Based Tasks, etc.

A couple of thoughts on the blogging challenge:

On looking back at the blogging challenge, I knew I wouldn’t do all 31 days.  I am a procrastinator, and I knew there would be times that I just would not blog.

One of the feelings that came up, as weird as it may sound, was that I began to be fixated on how many people followed me, and how many people read my blog.  I don’t like that feeling. It feels like I am trying to impress someone, and feel vindicated when someone likes a post and follows me or my blog.  This can begin to drive my ego and sense of identity. Again this is weird because I have under 2 dozen followers and less than 100 pageview, but yet I think about it.

So as I go forward with blogging, I want to keep this in check. I have considered a 180 blog this year, just so I can have a record for myself of what I have done, but we will see what happens.  For my 2 dozen followers and 6 readers, thanks for following! And I promise I won’t let it go to my head.

WANTED: Teachers for 7th grade math online PLC #msmathchat #July2014Challenge #mtbos

WANTED:  Average height American White 3rd Career 2nd Year 7th Grade Basic Math Teacher seeks 3-4 teachers to join forces to create an online PLC that conquers that challenge of training homone-laden boys and girls that are trying to attain adulthood while still acting like children to see the beauty of math in our everyday world.

Teachers desiring to be in this PLC….

  • Must have a passion for students to succeed and for math to matter to people around us. If you really don’t like students, math, or teaching, you will bring me down, and I don’t have the capacity to support you right now. Maybe in the future I can, but I am still trying to get a handle on this myself and I need people who are enthusiastic and encouraging about teaching math to push me forward. 
  • Must be willing to share lesson plans, formative assessments, summative assessment, resources, worksheets, exit tickets, wacky ideas, grand failures, virtual high-fives and fistbumps, and anything else that can make my life easier as a math teacher and richer by way of sharing the successes and struggles of other professionals.
  • Must be working with some variation of the CCSS. (I am on the Florida Standards which are almost exactly the same, word for word, as the CCSS)
  • Must not be in a 1 to 1 classroom. (No offense to those that are 1:1, and I am sure you would make this online PLC fantabulastic, but my coveting of your situation would cause me consternation. I have four computers in my room and no BYOD, so I will be limited in the technology that students use this year.)
  • Must be teaching 7th Grade math that is the class before Pre-Algebra. 6th grade math teachers could be considered for this as well, but I am not sure how the standards will cross. I may or may not be teaching 8th grade Pre-Algebra, but my curriculum will focus on the 7th grade standards. 
  • Must not be one who merely complains and grumbles, but is able to move on and find solutions. I get it, teaching is tough, people we work with can be difficult, insurance is expensive, politicians mess everything up, students hate us. We can commiserate in a virtual pity party for about 5 minutes, but then we need to move on and figure out what in the world we are going to teach tomorrow. 
  • Does not have to use Standards Based Grading, but if you do, that would rock! I have drunk the SBG kool-aid, (berry flavored!) and will be using some form of it this year. 
  • Must be willing to post some of our resources, thoughts, conversations, plans, etc. online for the world to seeI know there will be thousands of math teachers just like us who are up late one night figuring out what in the world they are going to teach tomorrow, and I think it would be amazing to have a resource where someone is really struggling can find immediate help. We can decide what we put online, as not all of it would be ready for prime-time. 
  • Must be able to meet in an online google hangout/or something like that at least once a week. I am hoping that it will be an hour one night a week, but because I have never done this before so we may need more time, or even less time.
  • Must be willing to put up with random quotes from movies, typically 80’s or 90’s. I should be able to say something like, “Slider, (sniff, sniff) you stink.”  And you not take offense to it. 
  • Must not be envious of the fact that I live in a sunny climate with palm trees. I have lived in the north and I feel your pain, but if you have 36 inches of snow on the ground and post a picture of it, I will post a pic of my pool and palm trees in my backyard inviting you over for a drink with a tiny umbrella in it.  

Applicants can be:

  • Local in the states, or teach internationally, but must adhere to the CCSS
  • Male, Female, or other, of any race, color or creed. I am an equal-opportunity PLC creator.
  • Teaching for between zero and 50 years.
  • A blogger or twitterer of any capacity.
  • Willing to use 3 Act Math Tasks, Estimation180, and any of the other cool online tools.

About me:

  • I am married to an amazing woman, going on 15 years now, and have a middle school age son who seems to be smarter at math than I am.
  • My prior careers were Video Production, and a Pastor of a Christian church.
  • I have a  B.S. Video Production, and a Masters of Divinity (Bible and theology type of stuff.)
  • I recently completed an online program to be certified to teach in the state of Florida, and have received my professional certification.
  • I was the Computer tech at my school for a year, the AVID coordinator one year, and taught 7th/8th grade Math this past year.
  • My curriculum is from the Go Math series, but will be pulling from different resources.
  • I am a procrastinator, and may be frustrating to work with from time to time, but hopefully this can help keep me on track!
  • I am sure there are other grave shortcomings that could derail this experiment but none are coming to mind right now.

How this will work:

  • Honestly, I have no clue. I have not done this before, and may find that after a month it is way too much work and will go back to picking and pulling things from the #mtbos. But, I hope that we can form some sort of community of like-minded teachers who can do more together than apart.

How to apply:

Shoot me an email with something witty and funny about yourself and why you would want to be a part of something like this.  I am honestly making this up as I type this post and I have no idea if anyone will apply. So that may be the extent of the application!



Why I Procrastinate – #July2014Challenge

#mtbos30 Day 16 (missing days 10-15)

All of my life, I have been one who procrastinated. Mostly, it was to avoid pain. I greatly dislike being in some sort of pain or discomfort, so if I could put it off, I would. This extends from school work to exercise to yard work to dealing with issues with myself to dealing with other people.

As you can imagine, it gets me into trouble from time to time. As a teacher, if I wait to grade papers, it piles up, and up, and up.

Recently, a friend of mine said this about her husband:

The reason why he procrastinates is because he is a perfectionist. If he doesn’t have the perfect solution, he won’t do anything.

And there it is. By no means would I have ever labeled myself as a perfectionist, as with most projects, I work them until they are about 80-90% done, and then I stop. But I never thought about the reason why I stop. For instance, on my back porch I have built an outdoor bed out of pallet wood.  We have a mattress on there right now, but it’s not the right one, and I want to finish it with arms, but I don’t know exactly what I want it to look like, and how to do it. So now, the bed lies unfinished on my porch.

I want to begin writing assessments for the upcoming school year, and I have found a couple that I want to emulate, and have been using Examview Generator to create a couple, but it isn’t just the way I want it. So now, it’s been a week since I tried to generate a test.

I know my students are this same way. They get behind on a project and don’t know what they want to do, and they don’t like any ideas that their parents come up with to help them, so they don’t do anything. (I know this feeling, I lived there in middle school!)

So what can I, they, we do about it?

Well, I am sure that productivity gurus all over the world have answered this question well, but I just haven’t gotten around to reading them yet. But here’s what I try, and will try to do with my students. What’s one thing I can do to start this?

I had a huge mess of bushes in my backyard as the house sat empty for five years before we moved in. How do I start reclaiming the yard? Let’s take out a reciprocating saw and go chopping away.

A student is completely stuck on a math problem. What do they do? Ask questions, what do they know? What is this like? What is this question asking for?

Sometimes all we need to get started is just a little shove, a little bump, a first step as to what could be. Now finishing well is another problem I need to deal with….later.

Mindset – Jedi Edition #July2014Challenge

#MTBoS30 Day 11

At a Professional Development workshop for the district this summer, we were introduced to Carol Dweck’s Mindset. We were given a copy of her book, and I believe there was a bit of buy-in from the teachers there.  I mentioned before that I wanted to do a Star Wars theme this year including a Jedi rubric for Standards-Based Grading.

In doing some more reflection on mindset, I decided to take a couple of different graphics and mash them together in order to refer to “fixed” and “growth” mindsets in my classroom.


@gradeable – An Honest Assessment – updated #July2014Challenge

#mtbos30 Day 10 (posted on Day 11)

Update:  Within an hour of my post I received an email from the head of product design and development at Gradeable. It is great to have a company that is so responsive and willing to work with users! If given permission I will post parts of the email. I will add some notes to some of my thoughts below.

In this post, I mentioned that I wanted to find a way to go digital in keeping student work, and finding an easy way to manage the documents of all 110 or so students I will have. I want to do this in order to have students keep their assessments and make corrections right away, and for me to have a digital portfolio of all student work throughout the year.

Enter @gradeable. From what I can tell, Gradeable is a relatively new startup (a year old?) that seeks to make grading and giving feedback on assessments easier for teachers. This is a review from working through this site in one day, I know it is not a full review of using it for awhile, but I found that if the barrier is to high, or the software too clunky, it won’t be worth my time struggling with in the heat of the school year. Software like this needs to work nearly 100% of the time and not cause stress, confusion, or delay (for those of you with young children who watch a certain train show, you will get the reference).

Here’s my summary before you read the long post: Great concept, but not yet ready to be seamlessly integrated into my classroom.

Personal note to @gradeable: No offense to you with this review. I am sure you are amazing, hardworking people who have launched the beginnings of what could be an incredible product! Please take these thoughts and run with it! I try really hard not to be a curmudgeon with internet reviews, and hopefully this comes across well.

I signed up for the 30 day no-credit-card-needed free trial. (Thanks for the no-credit-card-needed, I greatly dislike forgetting when the 30 day trial is up and am automagically charged for something I don’t want, way to go Gradeable!).


Creating a class:

I jumped in and created a fake class of kids. You select your subject, grade level, and you can import a list of kids from an excel file, or you can just type in the names in the box. You do not have to put an email address in for the students, but you do have to put in a last name, first name. (For my test run, I just tried to put in first names, it didn’t work.)

grade-numbersIt then takes you to your dashboard page where there is a curious number at the top.

I am assuming the “rank in the nation” is the number of users Gradeable has so far?


Creating an Assessment

I moved on to creating an assessment. One of the main features is that with multiple choice questions, once a file is uploaded the quiz will be immediately graded.  This is a nice option, especially if you are giving a full multiple choice quiz. In creating a new assessment, you can select the standard which it fits (nice option!), the CCSS are automatically given, and you can just put a check mark by which standards you want.

grade-q1I chose to copy and paste a couple of questions from an Examview test I created. Seemed easy enough. I was able to take a screenshot of a number line with a separate program (Jing), and then was able to insert it into the question.  The dark gray box underneath is the area that students have to answer the question. You can drag it down or up to give them more space to answer. Now, here is where a first problem showed up. You can see I have the image in the question here, but it did not show up on my test when I went to print it. Not sure what happened, but this could get frustrating pretty easily when trying to create a test!

grade-mcFor the multiple choice questions, I copied and pasted the text of my question, and then was able to paste in the separate choices.  Pretty easy here. Then you choose which answer is correct.



grade-nextHere is where things get a little odd. To add another question, click “add question” at the bottom. Well , I had created 5 questions already, and was done, but I accidentally clicked “add question” again. It brought up a blank question form, but there was no way to delete the question. And to try to get out of this screen, I clicked “previous” and received this warning. grade-makesure

Ok, I want to delete this question, but there is no where to delete it on this screen. I know it is blank, but let me out!  You can click “done” at the bottom, and it will put you out to the screen where you can arrange questions.  This is a bummer, especially since I just wanted to go back and adjust something.  Not a big deal, but it is a bug that needs to be addressed.

Now, it takes you to the screen with all of your questions.

Edit – 7/11/14  I had found an issue with with the questions being on separate pages. It turns out it was a chrome/OS X bug.  Within 6 hours they fixed the problem.  Bottom line, if you find something buggy, email support with your system information, you may have found something that they have not run into yet.



Here is where you can rearrange your questions.  You can drag the space for answers box up and down and try to get it to onto one page.  After the last question you put in is this:grade-delete


Edit 7/11/14: At first I thought it was a mistake and tried to delete this question, it won’t let you. But it does not show up on the quiz when you print it, and it is there for you to click on in order to put another question in.

Printing the Test

Now, you can print your test.  I clicked on print preview and up pops a .pdf file that I can save/print. Here’s where the stretchy answer boxes come in. Because I couldn’t see it on the previous screen where I could move the questions around, I didn’t realize that my five questions stretched to two pages. Also notice here that my graphic I inserted into the question did not appear. 7-01 Quiz A-2pages (this is the .pdf) and yes, I realize now that question 2 is incomplete. This was just a test, I repeat only a test!)

Edit 7/11/14: The preview problem was again a bug with Chrome/OS X.  They fixed it, and now I don’t have to bounce back and forth to see the print preview.

Scanning and Grading

So I finally get it formatted, and print it out. Here is where things can be cool.  I print out the test, fill in the name of one of my fake students, and complete the test.  I then use a scanner, and scan it into my computer. IMG Then Gradeable has you upload the file, and it will automagically score the multiple choice questions. This is really nice. The test is recognized by the QR code on the bottom, and the name is recognized as well. At first, the student received a 20% because the short answer isn’t graded automatically. (@Gradeable, would it be possible to have bubble scoring to enter in a number? Or boxes to enter in a number like the name above?)

Update from @Gradeable:  This feature is on their timeline to put in place.

 Another cool feature is that the questions are pulled out, and the answer boxes are separated. However, this is where things get weird again.


If you have anything written outside of your sized answer boxes, it doesn’t show up! Our kids will write outside of the imaginary answer box lines, and you will not be able to see it when you score it.  This is a big issue. 


Look here at questions 4 and 5.  You see the circled answer for question 4 at the top of the question 5 box. And the rest of the question 5 answer is missing. Now I have to go back to the original scan and look and see what was written and if the answer is correct.

When you are scoring the quiz, you can provide feedback, and you can print the file with the feedback on it for the students. This is helpful.

Update:  While scoring the test there is a “See Full Page” link that I missed while scoring. It is in the bottom left hand corner of the question. You see the entire page here.  grade-fullpage

But what is not helpful is this, if I have already scored the quiz once, I can’t find a way to go back and score it again. @Gradeable, is there a way to do this and I am missing it?

Edit 7/11/14: I completely missed the button to score the test again. I kept pressing the edit button when looking at a particular student, which edited a student’s info. Click on the assessment, and then click on “grade” on the right hand side. The feature is there, it just wasn’t where I thought it was. grade-edit

Current Takeaway:

A long post here, and yes, I have only had a few hours with this software. But it is not yet ready for primetime for me.

Here is what’s good:

  • Easy to start a class
  • Good idea in creating questions and answer boxes, and having it separated in the scoring area.
  • The immediate recognition of names and which test it is and automagically cueing them up is good. It is really an amazing and powerful feature!
  • The ability to print the scored test with feedback is great.
  • Having a digital portfolio of student’s work is great as well.

@Gradeable, here are somethings to work on to help make your great idea much better in reality:

  • Have a true print preview and a way to organize the questions on the page before seeing it as a .pdf file.Fixed!
  • Have a delete button in the creating assessments area when I click on “add question” and don’t want it.
  • Make sure images make it from the question creation onto the test. Not sure what happened with mine, but you can see from the screenshots that it is there, but not on the final print preview.
  • Have a dotted line box drawn under the question so that students know where they can write the answers. I can give an instruction saying “anything outside this box will not be scored.” They have considered this and will consider it again. For now you can click on “see full screen” while grading the assessment. 
  • Have a way for me to go back and rescore an assessment.
    —Update: There is a way to do this. On the screen in looking at the assignments, click “Grade” on the right hand side. 
  • On your preview screen of a scored assessment, for some reason on my computer (OS X Mavericks, on Chrome), the “X” is not showing up on the screen. When I mouse over the corner, it turns blue, but I don’t see that before I go there. Also, I should be able to click “ESC” on my keyboard to get out of it, but that doesn’t work either.
    grade-missing x

You’ve done a great work so far, but it needs a bit more done to seamlessly fit into my classroom routine. I’m sorry that this is such a long post after only one day of using it, but honestly, if I, as a tech geek, am having this much trouble with it, I think you will miss out on a large segment of teachers who will give up and not push farther with it. I think this may already be happening with this graphic: I graded one quiz, five questions, and I jumped from #440 to #88.

gradeable rank






Scanning & Grading Assessments #July2014Challenge

Day 8 #mtbos30 #July2014Challenge

One of my struggles last year was grading quizzes and tests quickly and getting them back into the hands of the students. I would end up procrastinating for a day or two and felt the loss of momentum one they received it back, saw the grade, and then checked out if it was a bad grade, and celebrate if it was a good grade. As I move into SBG, I am working to manufacture some different results. In my blog searching this summer, I came across this great series of posts from Shifting Phases:

Mylene had the students write a duplicate copy of the quiz to hand in, and one to keep and grade together. I think that could be a bit cumbersome for a test with longer answers, and using twice the amount of paper. Then she posted this:

Now this is a good idea!  Scan the quizzes so you have an electronic copy of the quiz, and the students don’t need to create a second copy.  And, you don’t have to manage all of those papers! So I have been wondering about taking this a step further. What if I got a scanner, maybe just a Document one like the Doxie Go and had students scan in their quiz, and then check their answers in a book and then sit down to make corrections until all students are done.  Then I would have a digital copy I could check and grade and hand a grade sheet back to the student the next day. Well, the Doxie Go won’t work for me as you can’t hook it to scan directly into a computer, and I can’t use it on my school’s wireless network because we don’t have an open BYOD network.  So I went ahead and bought a Canon LIDE 210 to do the scanning, hooked directly up to a computer.

Now, what I would LOVE to figure out is this.  What if every one of my students had a QR code that they could clip to their quiz and then scan it in. And then some magical piece of software will read the code and place it in the correct folder for each period. I can then tag all of the quizzes for that day with the right concept number, and have an automagically organized digital copy of what every student does for the year?  That would rock!  I haven’t figured out how this could work…

…until I came across Gradeable, and I wonder if this can get me closer? If you have thoughts, please post it below!

Inoreader – Keeping up with all y’all: #MTBoS30 Day6

When I went out on my binge reading of all blog posts concerning SBG and stuff, I really wanted a good feed reader that could pull together all of the great blogs that are out there.  I was an avid Google Reader user, and was sad when google killed it (insert sad trombone sound here.) I use Flipboard on my phone and iPad to keep up with my Facebook, Twitter, and other assorted news feeds, and I tried to create an RSS feed that would feed into Flipboard, but it was too clunky to make it work, and hard to add new feeds (read: it took 4 steps to do it, and I get extremely lazy!) After some searching, I came across Inoreader, It wasn’t Google Reader, but it turned out to be pretty decent.  So here’s what I did to make it work for me.

  1. ino buttonSign up for an account.  Easy, free, and painless.
  2. I downloaded the Inoreader widget for Google Chrome.
  3. Whenever I came across a blog I liked, I hit the Inoreader button:
  4. Then this little box popped up, and I hit the plus sign:


After you hit the plus sign the first time, a couple of options turn up, click the plus sign next to the first Feed, and this will subscribe you to all of the posts.  The second one will subscribe you to any comments.  I haven’t subscribed to comments, but you can! Now I can keep up with the 50 or so  great blogs I have stumbled across, without having to go back and visit each site every time!  Hope this helps you!

The Evernote Train



hero_evernoteIt has taken me a long time to learn to love Evernote.  In my earlier days of searching for productivity hacks, Evernote came up as one of the 10 best tools on every list, and I never saw the benefit of it. Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, I went on a binge blogreading spree looking up all things SBG, PBL, and every other new wave educational acronym you can think of.  I had poured through dozens of websites, and was forgetting where I found some great link that I looked at two days before.

I re-downloaded Evernote, and gave it another try. I setup a free account, and then downloaded the Google Chrome Evernote Widget. What happened years ago was that I tried to save one or two links, and then forgot about Evernote. In order to make Evernote effective, this what I did.
elephant1.  Download evernote for your computer, and then go in and setup a couple of folders based on what you typically look for.  I created “SBG,”  “Common Core,” and “Teaching Helps.”

everside2. Then I spent about two hours searching through all of the helpful websites that I wanted to clip, and then I clicked on the little elephant hanging out on the top right of my chrome window. This is the widget I linked above. It brought up this sidebar.

For blogs, I would make sure that “Article” is selected, and it will highlight the area that will be saved. (On the left hand side, of this image is what will be saved.) Typically, Evernote will clip just the blog post, but if you want to include the comments, just scroll down and click on the + sign, and the window will grow and capture that as well.

Also, under “File,” will be the list of your folders.  Select it, and choose which folder you want to put the article in.  You can also use the Tags feature, to give some more specifics about why you are saving this.  For my Common Core folder, I have tags such as “Fractions,” “Number Sense” “Ratios,” in order to place specific activities that I can find later for each unit that I teach.

Click “Save” and you’re done with this site!  What is great about Evernote, is that after a saving a dozen or so websites, it automatically suggested which folder to place the article.  It’s not 100%, but it is learning your habits, and helps you organize.

3. The free Evernote account allows you to save 60MB of things each month. I began saving a lot of links, pdfs, activities, and I ate up my allowance within two days.  So I bit the bullet, and paid for the premium at $5 a month.  I figured that if I quit using Evernote, I could cancel it.

evernote search4. Now that things are saved in evernote, you can look in your folders to find what you have saved. Or if you have a vague recollection of something you want to see again  but not the site you went to, just type the word and every note with that word will pop up!  For a previous post, I remembered someone posting about the wall of remediation, but I couldn’t remember where, I typed it in and “whoomp, there it is!”

It took using Evernote for every web clipping for a solid couple of days, and then I realized how much it would help me.  Everything I have found is saved and searchable.  All of my bright ideas can be jotted down. Now comes the hard part, pulling it altogether and doing something with it!

I decided that I would share my folders, so anyone can look through and even subscribe and find something helpful.  If you create a great Evernote folder, feel free to share it as well!

Standards Based Grading Folder

Common Core Folder

Teaching Helps