Why I Use PowerPoint to Teach Middle School Math

Nowadays, one of the major components of many teacher evaluations – including mine – is student engagement. Especially as a new teacher, I struggled with what felt like a game of “Whack-A-Mole” – getting student A on task only to find student B across the room is flinging paper at the student in the next seat. It was a never-ending cycle that left me exhausted. No matter what I did, I couldn’t figure out a way to get every student on task, doing what I needed them (and what they needed) to be doing.

why teach PPT whackamole

It took me a while to figure out that there were two major reasons why my students weren’t always on task. And no, it wasn’t that my lessons themselves weren’t “engaging,” although, as a new teacher, that actually was part of it, but not the central part. I know this to be true because as I progressed in my teaching career, I learned how to make much more engaging lessons, but unless I employed the tactics I’m about to explain, I wound up with the same problems.

The two reasons my students weren’t always on task were

1) they didn’t know what to do/didn’t have something to do

and

2) they couldn’t do what they were supposed to be doing.

Many of my students were off task because they didn’t know what to or have something to do. I had way too much downtime in my lessons. The students who were mature were able to sit and wait until the next component – which, admittedly, wasn’t long. It wasn’t like I had 5 or 10 minutes of dead time, but any teacher can tell you that even just 10 seconds of space is enough to derail a student who is either immature or not self-directed.

Students goofing off in classroom

Students goofing off in classroom — Image by © Sean De Burca/Corbis

So, what’s a girl to do? I abhorred the idea of busy work – I still do. Whatever I had for my students to do, it had to be authentic and worthwhile. It was a long time ago, so I don’t remember the flash of lightning that hit me for the inspiration, but at some point, I decided to try PowerPoint lessons. I put together all the vocabulary, notes, examples, and practice problems for a concept into a slide show and required my students to take these notes for a grade.

why teach PPT projected slide

Do you know what it’s like to hear the angels of heaven sing?

why teach PPT angels sing

I suppose it sounds like different things to different people, but that day it was the sound of silence. It was my whole class on task. Seriously. Every single student. And I know that most teachers will confirm that novelty and/or gimmicks may solve a problem in the short term, but give it about two weeks and things often go back to the way they were.

why teach PPT wait_for_it

That didn’t happen. I used PowerPoints with the same success regarding engagement and on-task behavior throughout the rest of not that year, but subsequent years. This is because PowerPoints give students clear and consistent expectations of what they are supposed to be doing, and provides enough information on each slide to keep students engaged if they finish one definition or problem before other students.

The other reason my students were off task was because I was expecting them to do things they couldn’t. Many of my students – like so many in our country – were performing below grade level. When I was putting up one problem at a time and asking students to work on it, the ones who couldn’t do it were off task. Once I changed to PowerPoint lessons, though, this problem was eliminated. Instead of one or two problems at a time, I was able to have several – sometimes up to ten different problems on a slide! I was able to have different levels of problems so that everyone was able to do what I wanted them to do. Additionally, the other slides alleviated this problem because everyone can write down information from a slide. This may not seem worthwhile, but I made sure my students knew two important things about this: 1) this was building notetaking skills, where were vital for their future in education, and 2) these notes were graded, so even if they didn’t fully understand the lesson, just by writing down the information on the slides, they could earn a grade that would help them overall.

why teach PPT important

And guess what? This all had an unexpected side effect: because these low-performing students now knew what they had to do/had something to do AND could do it, they actually began to improve their understanding and comprehension.

why teach PPT whaaat

If you’ve never tried using a PowerPoint in your middle school math classroom but you’d like to, I’d encourage you to check out some ready-made lessons that are Common Core-aligned. These are my most popular and best-selling lessons:

Independent vs. Dependent Variables

Ratios and Proportions

Integers and Absolute Value

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Open House Tips & Tricks

I would love for open house to be a full day. There’s just never enough time to communicate everything I feel is necessary to everyone who attends. I don’t get to spend enough time with parents/guardians talking about expectations and how my class works. I wish I had more time.

open house need more time

Teachers who have been to this rodeo before do certain things ensure open house is successful. We print supply lists ahead of time. We have people sign in – we might even have them jot down their phone number or email for us. We hand out curriculum/course overviews. We have our rules posted and our rooms decorated. But over the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about how I can get even more out of this year’s open house.

Secondary teachers’ open house night/day is different from elementary. We’ve got multiple classes – so do the kids. So, there’s a lot of roaming around. And a lot of students and families are only there to map out their day; they aren’t attending with the intention of truly engaging in any meaningful discussions with the teacher. They’ve been to this rodeo, too (6th and 9th grades are, I find, the exception to this rule). Still, I found that I was run ragged after open house, even though I had things set up in a reasonably organized fashion.

open house exhausted

As the school year has inched ever closer with each passing day, I find myself wondering, “How can I get even more out of this event? How can I facilitate independence for those families who just come for the map and supply lists so I am free to answer questions from other families?”

One thing I tried last year that worked well and that I will be employing this year is to project a screen onto my board with class supplies for families (along with a printed handout). When employing this strategy, I had a lot of people walk in, read the screen, pick up the handout, sign my information sheet, and then walk out after making eye contact and giving me a smile.

This year, though, I’m determined to digitize my classroom experience even further, though. My PowerPoint slide this year is going to have a chart, and in that chart, will be QR codes and bitly links to the Google sheet into which parents will enter their contact information, the supply list document, the welcome letter document, and the Remind sign up instructions pages (never used Remind? Google it! Maybe I’ll even write a post about it later!). I’m also going to have the Google sheet for contact information up on my student desktop computer for parents who don’t have (or don’t feel comfortable using) a smart phone. Of course, I’ll have paper copies of the supply list, welcome letter, and Remind instructions for those families as well.

open house ppt slide new

I am hoping that this will streamline things even further because 1) I’ll save time and resources not having to print so much, 2) I won’t have to manually transfer each hand-written email and phone number (you know, just because someone is a grown up doesn’t mean handwriting is readable…and of course the information in the school database is often wrong…) but can simply import it from the electronic sheet, and 3) I won’t have to be as involved in the distribution of paperwork (I’m betting most families have a smart phone for at least one of the members!).

Something else I have done with great success is to list important class-level items needed (hand sanitizer, tissues, paper towels, etc.) on sticky notes with my name, classroom, and subject, and allow people to take the sticky notes with them as they exit. I’ve seen teachers simply list (creatively and beautifully) what is needed, and sometimes parents will even write it down, but often times they forget which teacher asked for what and the supplies never make it into the right room. The use of sticky notes helps tremendously with this (I’ve had parents give me direct feedback on this for many years).

open house post it supplies

I have also had several years (before having my child) where my husband has come to open house and set up “shop” in the back of the room giving families the opportunity to purchase supplies cheaply and conveniently rather than have to make another trip to the store after the tax-free days our state gives us. Because elementary schools (and pre-schools) are really good about sending home supply lists before the start of the year, but secondary teachers/schools find this more difficult because each student now has 7 teachers, and there are 1000+ students and all their schedules are different.

If you like these ideas and want an open house freebie, I’ve got something for you to check out!

Have a wonderful open house and a great start to the year!

Common Core Practice for RL.8.4, RL.8.5, and RL.8.6

For those of you who read regularly, you’ll remember that I’m working on my 8th grade line of Continuous Improvement Model mini-lesson resources. I’m making good progress and I have recently finished and posted these resources:

CCSS.ELA.RL.8.4

8th grade CIM RL4

CCSS.ELA.RL.8.5

8th grade RL5 1

and

CCSS.ELA.RL.8.6

8th grade CIM RL6 1

I’ve also bundled these so you can save over 10% if you purchase them together.

8th grade CIM RL4-6

If you’ve never heard about or used my CIM resources, they use the research-based “model – teach – assess” technique. They are quick (10-15 min) mini-lessons that target specific standards. The only Common Core practice I’ve been able to find is general and mixed-standards. Mine is the only one I know of that does individual standard, targeted instruction and practice. It’s low-prep and easy to implement.

If you’re looking for quick, targeted, and easy resources for this standards, come check them out!

 

The Continuous Improvement Model

When I started teaching English, I was terrified. I had few ideas about how to effectively communicate what I knew about English and reading comprehension to my students. See, I was (am) really good at English. It was my strongest subject in school. I love to read. I love to write. It comes naturally to me. I rarely struggled with it. So when I encountered students who weren’t good at reading or writing, I didn’t know what to do with them. I had no strategies for how to help them learn and grow. My process for teaching writing evolved into something very successful, but that’s a topic for another entry. My process for teaching reading, however, improved as a result of my being assigned to teach a semester course of Advanced Reading, in which the curriculum embedded something called “FCIM,” which stands for “Florida’s Continuous Improvement Model.” The Continuous Improvement Model – or CIM, for short – operates under the best-practice assumption that education is a cycle of teaching and assessing, and is best communicated through some variation of the research-based strategy “model-guide-practice” or “I do, we do, you do.”

7-17-16a

I wasn’t overly impressed with the quality of the curriculum – as is true for most large curriculum companies, there were errors, lack of explanation for answers, and virtually no guide for teaching metacognition (another research-based instructional component). But I did like, and find effective, the overarching principles of the instructional model. It was on this that I based my own CIM resources.

7-17-16b

These resources are intended to be used in conjunction with other curriculum, instruction, and assessment. They should be a component of the Continuous Improvement Model within any classroom. They should be used to help the teacher gather data on student comprehension and achievement and that should drive further instruction.

This particular CIM targets the Common Core Reading: Literature Standard 1 for grades 9-10. It has a complete teacher script for lesson 1, which models metacognition for students and goes through how to determine the correct answer for the correct reason. It has a guided lesson script for lesson 2, which helps take students through the same process before trying it completely on their own in lesson 3. Although, lesson 3 has thorough explanations for the correct and incorrect answers so that it can be a part of the Continuous Improvement Model process.

 

Additionally, it offers differentiation options by having two complete sets of lessons: one using multiple-choice questions and one using open-response questions. This resource combines 2 essential features of quality education: effective use of time and best-practices teaching methods. Finding supplementary materials that specifically target a single standard are difficult to come by. You either have to take a resource and pick it apart to use only the questions that apply to the standard you’re targeting or you have to make it yourself. And few teachers have the time (or inclination, for that matter) to pick passages and write standards-based questions for them. This takes that prep-work piece away and does that labor for you. However, you, as the teacher, get to decide how to use the resource, how to differentiate and scaffold it, and even whether or not to use pairs or small groups – all while knowing you are engaging your students in the model-guide-practice research-based teaching strategy and gathering information and data you can use as a part of your classroom’s Continuous Improvement Model.

7-17-16f

Although this is my first CIM for this level, I have a complete RL/RI (all 17 standards) CIM set for 6th grade and I’m almost halfway done with the complete 8th grade set as well. Eventually, the intention is to have sets for grades 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9-10.

How can you use this resource effectively? Many teachers who have purchased from my CIM line use this resource as bell work. Others use it as a part of a focus workshop. The product itself has suggestions for differentiation as well as collaborative work.

This line is also highly rated by teachers who have purchased the resource(s). Here are some of the things they’ve had to say about the different products in the CIM line:

On RL.9-10.1:

  • On July 16, 2016, Catherine R. said: This will be a valuable resource to walk students through the process of reading and using evidence to respond to questions. Thanks for sharing.

On RL.8.2:

  • On July 13, 2016, Wacky Apple (TpT Seller) said: Exactly what I needed.

On RL.6 (various):

  • On March 29, 2016, Megan F. said: One of the best resources I have seen in a while
  • On June 7, 2016, Rebecca Harris (TpT Seller) said: Excellent resource! I look forward to using these with my students this year!
  • On April 21, 2016, Janine L. said: Looking forward to using these to review the standards my students performed poorly on for their district assessments.
  • On January 24, 2016, Crystal V. said: I own the RL bundle and the RI bundle. Yes, they are a little bit pricey but I think it is absolutely fair considering the amount of content. You definitely get what you pay for! I love using these as Bell Ringer Activities, and to remediate standards since testing is coming up. Thanks!
  • On November 20, 2015, Shakera W. said: Thank you! this resource is so helpful for intervention! Thank you so much! Very thorough resources!
  • On January 20, 2016, Emily S. said: Great resource! Such a time-saver! Thanks 🙂
  • On October 14, 2015, Shakera W. said: Great intervention tool! Thank you!

If this sounds intriguing, head on over and check it out!

My Newest Common Core Practice Bundle

I’ve been MIA for a while because I grossly underestimated how much work it would be to go back into the classroom! But I put in a lot of work into making my Continuous Improvement Models (CIMs) for RI.6.4-6 (Author’s Craft & Structure) so I really wanted to post about it. I just want to give an overview of the CIMs in the bundle and explain to you why you should be interested in my resources if you teach upper elementary/lower middle English/Language Arts.

I’ve been working on my CIM for RI.6.7 and I was having trouble finding texts and even looking for resources with sample questions to make sure that my resources are valid and on point with the standards and other resources out there. Well, I started realizing there weren’t any resources out there that target individual standards. Sure, there are lots of things out there for teachers that have texts and questions for Common Core, but everything I’ve found gives teachers a handful of questions that target multiple standards. For example, I might get 7 questions, but each one only targets 1 standard, so I really only get 1 – or maybe 2 – questions on any given standard. And nothing I’ve found uses the format I do – the “I do,” “we do,” “you do.” And none of the resources I’ve found give teachers the tools to work through teaching students how to correctly identify answers for the given questions. Everything I’ve found only identifies which standard the question assesses and the correct answer. Sometimes it will have reasoning for why it is the correct answer, but nothing more than a few sentences. My resources are much more in depth. There are 3 mini-lessons for an individual standard. In this particular bundle, each individual lesson has at least 2 questions. For lesson 1, there is a full script that explains, in depth, how to determine the correct answer(s). In lesson 2, there is a script to guide students through determining the correct answer(s) themselves. In lesson 3, there is ample explanation on why the incorrect answers are incorrect and why the correct answer is correct, in case students need re-teaching or explanation.

If this sounds like something your students could use, check out my newest bundle for Reading Informational Text Grade 6 standards 4, 5, & 6.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/6th-Grade-Common-Core-Practice-RI4-5-6-Authors-Craft-and-Structure-Cluster-2120055

Common Core Practice RI.6.2

When I started working with teachers two years ago upon CCSS roll-out in our state (which was slapped, tickled, and relabeled LAFS – Language Arts Florida Standards), it became clear there was going to be a void. Teachers I worked with and spoke to became nervous that there weren’t enough practice materials for students to master the new and more rigorous standards. I began creating resources for them, such as question stems, and they gave great feedback. As time went on, though, and the new state tests loomed on the horizon, I began to see that students in my district weren’t going to get enough test preparation. This was a function of the curriculum our district uses in English/Language Arts. I won’t elaborate beyond saying that it is completely void of any real, consistent, useful traditional assessments and how the curriculum potentially relates to what the students will see and be expected to demonstrate mastery on when they take the state assessment. I figured that if this was the case in my district, it was probably true in others. Based on this assumption, I began creating my CIM line. CIM stands for Continuous Improvement Model. It is based on the “I do,” “we do,” “you do” model of instruction. Students get three rounds of practice – once at the teacher level, seeing the metacognition that goes on during the problem-solving process; then in a guided setting, where the teacher can begin to see the areas needing focus and re-teaching; and finally, independently, demonstrating mastery or lack thereof. For those of you not familiar with the term CIM, I didn’t invent it. It comes from the reading curriculum our district uses, except we call them FCIMs – the “F” standing for (no, not that F word) Florida. Since the LAFS correlate pretty much identically with the ELA Common Core Standards, I just dropped the “F” and my CIMs are designed to help any student in a state with either Common Core or LAFS – or a state who did the same thing Florida did and just put a brand new coat of paint and called it a horse of a different color.

6th grade CIM RI2 d

I’ve gotten good feedback from these lessons, so I’ve continued my quest to fill the void. I’ve done almost all of 6th grade Reading Literature standards CIMs (putting the finishing touches on RL.6.7…it should be ready by next Sunday) and have started on the 6th grade Reading Informational Text standards CIMs. That’s what this post highlights: RI.6.2 (central idea and summarizing). This resource has three lessons. Lesson 1 is a scripted teacher lesson that presents questions and a passage, along with commentary and reasoning for students to hear the process aloud to see how the teacher arrived at the answers. Lesson 2 is a guided practice lesson where the teacher helps students reason and analyze their way to the correct answers with a little help here and there. Lesson 3 is an independent lesson where students must demonstrate that they can come to the correct answers on their own. The results of Lesson 3 dictate either re-teaching or moving onto the next concept. These resources aren’t units and they aren’t meant to be stand-alone products. They’re designed to be more like bell work or class starters. They’re only supposed to take about 7-10 minutes each. My plan is to have a full line of RL and RI CIMS for grades 3-11 (I’m not sure 12th grade would have much of a demand, since most states stop testing in either 10th or 11th grade), so you’ll periodically see blog posts from me about the newest CIM I’ve added to the line.

6th grade CIM RI2 b

6th grade CIM RI2 c

I have a free version you can test out if you think this might be something your students could use. The good news is that if you’re at all familiar with Common Core or LAFS you’ll know that the secondary standards are remarkably similar, so if you have some students who aren’t quite reading on grade level, the 6th grade series might be a good place to start to build some confidence. Of course, if you use it and you like it, leave some feedback and rate the product. It helps me reach my goals and improve my products. Thanks!

6th grade CIM RI2 a

It Summer! And Other Interesting Things.

By now most teachers are completely done with the school year. 14-15 is OVER. Is there anyone who is still teaching this far into June? Unless you’re at a year-round school, probably not. I really miss my summers. This is the 3rd summer I’ve had to work, since I now occupy a 12-month position. And I miss my summers. There are things I DON’T miss about the classroom, that’s for sure. But I do miss my summers. I miss sleeping in. Not that there was much of that, what with trainings and planning for the upcoming year, but there was some. And I do miss planning for the upcoming year. I used to keep a running document of all the things that didn’t work during the school year and I would spend the summer figuring out how to improve them. Not just specific lessons, but stuff in general. Like maybe I realized I was ending up with too much work to grade. I would sit down and try to figure out a system where I could still assign what I needed to in order to achieve certain goals but get things graded on time and without taking up three hours of my evenings. Or I might realize that students spent way too much time going to the bathroom and so I would figure out a plan to reduce (or eliminate) that problem. How many of you do that? I tell you, it’s what really helped each year of my teaching improve. It’s how I came up with my student contract and my hall passes.

In other news, the Teachers Pay Teachers annual conference is coming up very soon! It’s scheduled for July 9-10 in Las Vegas, NV. I had such a great time and learned so much last year that I can’t wait to go back. And this time, my husband is coming with me! We’ll get to go to twice the number of sessions and learn double what I could have on my own. If anyone is coming, I’d love to meet up with you at some point. We will probably be going to the secondary seller meet up Thursday night after the sessions end. I also got business cards this year, since they were super popular last year and I wished I’d brought some. They came in early and I’m stoked about how they turned out. If you’re a premium seller on TpT and you haven’t registered for the conference, I think they’re still accepting registrations. It is SO worth it. I was nervous that it wouldn’t be, but it totally was! I learned so much and improved my business by leaps and bounds! I hope to see you there!

Summer BOGO #3!

Have you been waiting to see what my newest summer BOGO will be? Well, the wait is over! For this week (from today through Saturday, 6/20/15), I have decided to offer a project BOGO. If you purchase my best-selling and highly-rated Probability Project, you will receive my Scale Model of the Solar System Project for free!

June BOGO 3

Both these projects are fabulous ways to assess your students’ understanding in a hands-on, authentic way. In the Probability Project (which is designed to take place at the END of a probability unit of study), students create their own carnival-style games, predict outcomes, play the games, record data, and analyze the data they’ve collected.

prob proj cover

In the Solar System Project (which is designed to take place at the END of a unit teaching scale and scientific notation), students research the planet sizes and distances from the sun in our solar system. Then, they create a scale model of the solar system and discuss (through writing) their processes.

scale model solar system

My students LOVED both of these projects, and I’m sure yours will, too. They are aligned to CCSS (Math), but would apply to any state’s standards regarding probability, scale, and scientific notation.

Depending on your standards and curriculum, these projects would be appropriate for students in grades 6-9.

I hope you’re having a great summer!

Follow this link to the BOGO offer!

Are You Testing Me? Part 1

This is part 1 of a 3-part series on assessment.

As a classroom teacher, I was always looking for ways to effectively assess my students’ learning. I came up with some great ways to differentiate through product, but sometimes, I just had to use a traditional assessment. I always thought I was pretty good at creating those assessments, but once I got my current job working for Assessment and Accountability, I realized I’d been doing lots of things that are not best practices when it comes to traditional assessments. I’ve decided to share some biggies with you in the hopes that your classroom assessments can be more valid, effective, and help you inform your instruction.

1. Make sure your questions are just that: questions. While it is acceptable to craft an item so that the answer completes a sentence (this is popular in college entrance exams and AP exams), classroom assessments tend to be more valid and effective (and you learn a bit more about your students’ comprehension) if your items are all worded as questions. Here are some examples.

5-21b

– “a” is the preferred item style.

– “b” is acceptable, but not ideal. Note: If you are going to use this format, be sure the “blank” students have to fill in is at the end of the stem (so, not “____ was the first President of the US.”).

– “c” is unacceptable; it isn’t a question, and students might be confused because they’re not entirely sure what you’re wanting them to do. Plus, it’s not even grammatically correct.

2. Use arbitrary order in your distractors (answer choices). We have human bias when we create answer choices. Statistically, we choose B or C as the correct answer more often than A or D (or E, if using 5 answer choices). This is a problem because if students figure out your bias, they can guess with higher rates of accuracy, which defeats the purpose of assessing what concepts or skills they actually know. If you use arbitrary order, this eliminates bias (or lessens it). Here are the common ways to arbitrarily order answer choices:

a. Alphabetically (when answer choices are one word)

b. By length (when answer choices are more than one word)

c. By the order in which the answers appear in the text (for example, line numbers in poetry or quotations from various paragraphs)

d. Chronologically

e. Smallest to largest (numerical values)

3. Number 2 depends on one thing, though: your answer choices should be roughly the same length. We like to make the right answers either the shortest or longest. It takes some practice and skill to make all your distractors the same length. Students pick up on this bias easily and will often guess an answer choice that is considerably longer or shorter than the others.

4. Punctuate your answer choices correctly. A sentence contains a subject and a verb. Sometimes the subject is what we call “understood.” For example, an imperative sentence (an order), “Clean up this mess!” is a sentence because the subject is understood to be “you” – as in, “You, clean up this mess!” It also has a verb: “clean.” There are also one-word sentences like “No.” and “Yes.” And “Stop.” If an answer choice has a subject and a verb, it should be punctuated as such: capitalize the first word and put an end mark (most likely a period) at the end. If it is NOT a sentence, do NOT capitalize the first word and do NOT put a period at the end. And in this vein, make sure all your answer choices (for a specific item) are the same, grammatically: either all are sentences or all are not. Additionally, make sure they are all consistent in terms of parts of speech, verb tense, point of view, etc. Here are some examples:

5-21a

– “a” is problematic because while “i” and “iv” are correctly punctuated sentences, “ii” is not a sentence, and should not be capitalized and ‘iii” is not a sentence and should not be capitalized or contain a period. Also, “iv” is much longer than the other 3 choices. Furthermore, all 4 answer choices are inconsistent.

– “b” and “c” are both equally acceptable. “b” uses complete sentences for all the answer choices, punctuates them correctly, and they are all roughly the same length. They also use the same verb tense (present). “c” uses a single word or phrase for all 4 answer choices; none of them are capitalized (nor should they be); none of them have end marks (nor should they). Additionally, all 4 are the same (and correct) part of speech (noun).

– “d” is problematic because although they are not sentences and are correctly (un)punctuated, they are not all the same (or appropriate) part of speech. “i”, “ii”, and “iv” are adjectives but “iii” is a noun.

5. Having 5 answer choices isn’t statistically different from having 4 answer choices, in terms of what you learn about your students’ knowledge. Anything less than 4 choices, however, is problematic because it doesn’t allow for differentiation among student mastery levels. Lesson: if you’re doing a multiple-choice assessment, go with 4 answer choices. 5 if you feel you absolutely must, but never less than 4. Side note: if you are going to follow the trend where there are multiple answer choices, you must follow this ratio: for 2 answer choices, you must have 5 or 6 options; for 3 answer choices, you must have at least 6 but not more than 8 options. You should not design a question where there are more than 3 correct answer choices.

6. Make your answer choices reasonable. You won’t learn anything about your students’ mastery if one or two of the answer choices are so outlandish that only a monkey would choose it. And don’t try to trick your students. Think about what you want to learn from their answers. Make your distractors (the incorrect answer choices) things that your students would choose if they had certain misconceptions. For example, if your question is (-2) + 3(8 x 3) / 4(5-7), then make your answer choices options that students could get if they dropped a negative, didn’t follow order of operations, etc. This way, you’ll actually gain useful information from students who get the wrong answer. You’ll know why they got it wrong and it can help you target re-teaching.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this series, which will be posted next week. I would love to hear from you! Please comment or leave a question about this blog entry using the form below!

Be a Convert!

As a middle school math teacher, there never seemed to be an end to the things my students could not do when they came to me. For instance: I thought that a 7th grader would be able to efficiently subtract double and triple-digit numbers. Wrong. I thought that an 8th grader would be able to at least make an educated guess when taking a multiple choice quiz. Wrong.

Side note story:

My first and second years teaching 7th grade pre-Algebra followed a very strict (flexible when necessary, though) schedule where Monday and Tuesday were direct instruction, Wednesday and Thursday were student practice, and Friday was assessment (short, 10-question quiz, and then re-teaching when necessary). So I knew that not all my students would get 100’s on their quizzes, but I did expect them to at least try. Or use common sense. I swear to you, I got responses back like:

Solve: ½ + ¾

  1. 4/6
  2. 5/4
  3. 3/8
  4. 1

Student answer: “No”.

No joke. I think one time I even got the answer “blue.”

I had to find a better way. I had to give them what they needed. So I started making PowerPoint lessons. One that worked really well for them was on converting among fractions, decimals, and percents. In the 3 years I taught math, I found that my students needed, at the least, a refresher on this concept, and at the most, a full-blown lesson with direct instruction on it. My PowerPoint could serve in both capacities. I found that my PowerPoint lessons engaged my struggling students because it was visual and it was structured. It kept them focused, it kept them engaged, it taught note-taking skills, and it presented a document I could easily turn into a grade (through a notebook check or something similar). Yes, it took time on the front end to create, but it solved so many problems that it was well worth it.

Do you have students who need help with converting among fractions, decimals, and percents? Check out my PowerPoint lesson!

converting fractions decimals percents