This pandemic has caused us to stretch our thinking and innovate to make the best learning environment for our students.
I love sending students to the whiteboard or having them use table whiteboards in the classroom to practice. With social distancing, I couldn’t get as many to the whiteboards as I needed to. I also have individual table whiteboards, but using the sanitizing cleaner on our them was eating the finish.
The solution came from two of my colleagues ideas. The first one was the individual bags with a cut up piece of towel. Students were asked, if they could, to purchase their own marker for the bag. I had a few for students who couldn’t or who forgot. This way they could use their own “eraser” and marker and we wouldn’t have to sanitize them.
The second solution was laminated paper with a grid printed on one side. Each student received one for the notebook. Now they can use their own and we don’t have to sanitize the desk whiteboards and ruin the finish.
The third part was laminating grid chart paper to put on the walls as extra whiteboard space. It works just as well as and erases just as well as the shower board my school uses for whiteboards.
I loved finally getting my students up and working problems. I love that they can look around and see what others are doing and self-correct. I love that it helps me see where students are with current material. We were able to get almost everyone to the new board spaces because we are now on a hybrid schedule with part of the alphabet each day. I need to make a few more for the wall and find some space to put them.
This pandemic has been something. Keep being awesome for your students but also keep taking care of yourself! It’s hard, but it won’t be forever!
What are number talks you ask? They are a wonderful low floor, high ceiling task that allows everyone the opportunity to share their thinking. Here is a Wakelet of resources I have compiled from the interwebs. I use Fawn Nguyen’s Visual Patterns a lot! A great book I recommend reading is Making Number Talks Matter by Cathy Humphreys and Ruth Parker. I’m sure there are others, but this is the one I read. There are many videos, blog posts, and ideas if you just google Number Talks. I like that Number Talks strengthen numeracy and allows students to see that everyone approaches problems differently, which is the wonderful thing about math. Many students, because of how they have been taught, think there is only ONE way to complete a problem.
As I mention in my book, Make Math Not Suck, I want my classroom to be a safe space. Because of this, I like to keep responses like this anonymous, allowing students to share if they feel comfortable. I started trying to do number talks in PearDeck using the drawing feature. The problem I ran into was wanting students to be able to draw OR write to explain their thinking.
Enter Desmos. With Desmos, you can give students the option to type or write. And when you are working with patterns, they can draw right on the pattern.
We move to hybrid learning this week. Half of my class will be in person and half will be joining by Zoom. I think Desmos is going to work well for our Number Talks in this situation. I can still select student responses to share on the screen that both in home and in person students can view.
If you aren’t using Number Talks, do a little investigating. I think you will find it gives students confidence, it allows you to see gaps in their number sense, and it helps students learn new strategies.
As I was perusing Twitter last week, I came across someone asking if their activity could be made into a Google Slide. For some reason I cannot resist the urge to “see if I can do it”!!! [On a side note, self care tells me I really SHOULD resist this urge ☺️] So I did it! I created a digital version of her game.
First, this game looks like a fun way to add three digit numbers, there is not one right answer, and students are not competing based on correct answer rather how close they get to 1,000.
I REALLY liked the “shuffle” idea I came up with for this game and thought, WOW, I could use the idea for a regular deck of cards. I began looking for a deck of cards and ran into a snag… I didn’t want to use someone else’s card due to copyright and I’m simply too cheap to buy them. So… I made them. Please don’t laugh at my King, Queen, and Jack. I did my best 😂. The good news is, they are free and Creative Commons licensed to me so just give me credit if you use them.
The instructions to shuffle are in both of activities. Make sure you don’t just drag the cards. You have to DUPLICATE the card or the layering will not be in the correct order. Once you have created your decks, you can copy the whole deck and paste it into any other Google Slide activity you have created. Create multiple slides, to have multiple “shuffled card” options.
After I made this activity, I saw the John Meehan (@MeehanEDU) had also made one. In his activity, he has a created deck of cards (his doesn’t “flip over” with the cover card) and he just changes the order. I couldn’t quickly find it, but he shared it on Twitter.
If you use either of these activities, give me a shoutout on social media. It makes my day when others can use what I share.
Decorations. Really?! Yes, because this is where I’m at right now. We have been teaching in a remote environment since school started. Not because of Covid but because we had black mold growing in our building and it had to be gutted and cleaned. I returned to my classroom Monday to take stock of what I needed. Sadly, I needed everything! They threw away EVERYTHING in my classroom.
I wanted an inviting space for my students, so I planned to spend the week trying to get my room ready, But, creating this last week of digital lessons, giving virtual feedback, answering emails, and scheduling extra Zoom tutoring sessions took up my time. On Thursday night I FREAKED OUT because I had no decorations in my classroom. I ran to JoAnn’s and bought some fabric for my curtains, Wal-Mart to replace the plastic bins, Dollar Store to buy some scissors, and a few other places for decor. I found NO DECORATIONS for a secondary math classroom. My solution, make my own.
I printed this Welcome banner last year from Math=Love. So I just printed a new set and stuck it to my door.
I also had an empty bulletin board. My giant Dumbledore and favorite quote gone forever. It was too sad to make a new one, so I opted for some Math Puns. I have provided the PDF if you want to print your own. Thankfully our school now has a color printer and I could print and laminate at school.
Bitmoji also has some new stickers PERFECT for the classroom.
I’m fairly pleased with the results. I will miss what I lost, puzzle books, decorations, all my stress squishies, and 20 years of memories and student work, but we will move forward and make the best of it.
If you use the Math=Love banner, tag Sarah Carter on Twitter (@mathequalslove). If you use the math puns, tag me on Twitter (@MandiTolenEDU).
I hope you have had a great start to you year. Keep being awesome for your students!
Student reflection is so very important! If we want students to see learning as a process and not and one and done situation, then we need to provide them ways to reflect on their learning.
This is an idea that I have used in my face-to-face classes and it has also been successful in my remote learning classes. You can achieve this in many different ways. I’ve included a few of the templates and ideas I’ve used below. I find Google Slides the best for me. It takes the least amount of time to read them. Google Forms is also quick, except I always feel like I need to merge the info into one document so it looks better, then it doesn’t save me time anymore 🤓!
Google Slides Reflection
Both of these slides do basically the same thing. The first one was created using a template from Slides Mania (yes, I mention it a lot because it’s AMAZING!!!). The second one is a template I created. They both ask basically the same thing. The second one can be assigned for EVERY lesson, the first one could be assigned after a few lessons.
I ask the same questions as above, letting students pick stickers or a drawing for the whiteboard to tell me where they are with the current information.
Pro: I can hear their voice inflection and they tend to tell me more in the videos.
Con: It takes a lot longer to get through the feedback!
Google Forms Reflection
I ask the same questions in the Google Form as I do in the Google Slides. I miss the visual interaction students get by dragging the icons in the Google Slides. You could have students upload images but I want this to be a fast process for them too.
You could also use the interactive drag features and the question features to do the same thing in a Pear Deck. It’s not much different from the Google Forms above, but the take away feature is nice. I don’t have one of these to share, but it’s an idea if you use Pear Deck.
Make Math Not Suck the BOOK
These are the types of ideas and templates I share in my book Make Math Not Suck. It’s full color and full of QR codes, stories to inspire, and ideas to use immediately. Fun fact, I’ve had many people tell me these ideas could be used in ANY classroom K-12, so share with your non-math friends too!
I am not a paperless classroom. As I say in my book, use technology if
it makes your job easier
it makes the learning better for students.
So why a digital flipbook? Well, it’s actually not just one reason.
We have to go remote this fall, not because of Covid but because we have “spores” in our building that required them to close the building, throw away all of our porous material (i.e. books, saved foldables and student work, 20 years of personal books and memories).
I know some of my students won’t have paper at home to make a foldable while remote.
Umm… my foldables are all gone (see reason 1). They were thrown away 😦 If they had been digital, it would still have them.
I saw this idea in a TikTok by @adungan and knew this was my solution.
I recreated one of our foldables that was destroyed. I plan, with all of my digital lessons, to have students take pictures of their work and paste it in the foldable (or notes or practice, etc). I don’t want them to have to draw every image, but I also don’t want phantom floating notes so when they look at them there is no image or problem to reference.
I made a little tutorial that I am posting in Canvas/Google Classroom (this has been another huge debacle) to help them create a good scan and clip their images. (This is a Slides Mania notebook template)
Here is the foldable as the students will see it. I will put it in Google Classroom and set it to make a copy.
If you are putting this in Canvas, make sure you force a copy. Here is a gif from Jake Miller (@JakeMillerTech) to help you with that.
And here is a completed copy with student work snipped and uploaded into the document.
If you want the template, here is a link. You can also snag a copy on Slides Mania in the By EDU for EDU section. Paula is AMAZING and creates great stuff. She is also kind enough to share what others teachers create.
Now, if you are adventurous and want to make your own, I created a tutorial posted on InfinitelyTeaching. You will also find a 6 topic template posted there ;-).
This summer I have spent some (a lot) of my time writing curriculum for our Virtual Academy. One thing I have focused on is multiple representations of the content for each concept. I’m hoping to better meet the needs of all my learners. I broke by options into two categories, Read and Watch (Listen). Students are given the choice of which way they would prefer to learn the material and it provides additional resources if they need reinforcement.
Remember, this doesn’t have to be limited to virtual learning. Students in your classroom will benefit from multiple representations too.
Videos (Watch, Listen)
There are many options for using videos in your lessons. I have listed a few of my favorites below.
Make Your Own
I like to use Notability on my iPad. I have some tutorials on how I create my videos and upload to Google Drive and or YouTube, (YouTube adds closed captioning). If you watch your students, you will notice many of them watching videos with closed-captioning on. This not only meets accessibility needs for students, but also meets their learning style.
Videos from Others
You can find so many videos that are already created. I like this option because students need to hear information multiple ways. You are teaching it one way and videos from someone else may say the same thing in a different way. For my lessons, I used Kahn Academy, CK-12, and Delta Math, and YouTube. You would think this saves time, but you do have to watch the videos before you post them so it works out to be about the same amount of time.
I created an infographic for each lesson. This allows a student who like visual representations an option for learning. A few are shared below; feel free to use them. Please do not sell these. Some of the examples are from various resources I have so I do not want any of us violating copyright laws.
I have also adapted a few of my classroom posters into virtual “posters” or infographics. This one is based on a bulletin board set from Sarah Carter (@mathequalslove). I love this set, so I updated it for my virtual classroom.
Notes (Read and/or Watch)
One of the things I LOVE about Notability is the created PDF file for each note I write. I have these set to save to my Google Drive and I can easily share them with students. I include written examples as part of my visual learning options. Sometimes I also make a video of the examples (if the videos I select don’t have examples) and sometimes I just post the written version.
Check for Understanding
If I were in the classroom, I would walk around and check for understanding with each student. Virtually, I wanted a way for students to check their own understanding. I did not make this worth points and I had students self-report instead of returning the check for understanding to me.
I use checks from Kahn Academy, Delta Math, and CK-12. All three of these offer short checks for understanding with links to additional resources. I also use Desmos and Geogebra activities, making sure I provide the answers within the activity so students don’t need to rely on me to check their work.
I have often used self-checking slides in my classroom so I have a nice supply I can use for virtual learning. In the classroom, these allow me to differentiate based on student needs while I walk around the classroom and help individual students. Virtually, it’s a great quick check for understanding. I have shared a few below.
Here is a quick tutorial to create your own. You can also use step 1 of this tutorial for more elaborate instructions on using the Master Slide.
This is all just one step for each of my lessons. I also have launch type activities such as Which One Doesn’t Belong, Number Talks, Puzzles, and Open-Ended Question. I try to include some kind of activity, a reflection, and practice for each lesson too. I’ll share some of these resources soon.
I would love see anything you create or use from the ideas you see here. Tag me on Twitter @MandiTolenEDU.
In this season of virtual learning, digital manipulatives are more important than ever. There are a few I have used over the years in my own classroom like the protractor, ruler, algebra tiles, and algebra balance scale. I created them to fulfill a need in my class. My students can’t always purchase these supplies, or if they do, they are broken by the time we need them.
At a conference last week, I had elementary teachers ask if I had additional resources or digital tool websites for teachers. I did have resources, but they were in many different places. I’ve created a Wakelet of these resources to make it easier and included the link below. I will continue to add to it.
I’ve also had the request to include more elementary related material. I have an elementary friend who will be sharing some of her resources here but I would LOVE to feature you on my blog. If you have a fun learning activity that Makes Math Not Suck for elementary students, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We could set up a guest blog post OR I can simply feature your activity.
I have been using the Geometric Town project for years. You can read about it from my original post and also obtain the non-digital version. During this crazy Covid-19 quarantine, I’ve been updating my activities to make them more virtual learning friendly. In this situation, I gave students the choice to complete this activity digitally or on paper.
There are components of this project that I like on paper, like graphing equations by hand and students using their creativity with their buildings. Other benefits became evident when I created this digitally. The use of Desmos to create the graphs and the use of digital icons made correcting misconceptions much easier.
Either way, this is still a fun project that reviews many of standards from the year.