Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Small steps into the interactive notebook world

Okay, I like to use Pinterest for foldable ideas, but I was thinking about a foldable for ordering integers and this idea came to me:

What I like about this foldable is the six different ways to write one inequality --- I want my students to understand how we can think about every inequality as both less than and greater than, I want them to understand the inequality spatially, and I want a strong connection between the symbol and the words.

If you want a copy, this is a Google drawing available here.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Desmos card sort and ordering rational numbers

So, I am continuing to be fascinated with the Desmos activity builder, and I am playing around more and more with the card sort feature. (See my initial blog entry on the card sort for an introduction to the feature.) I realized last night that I could do some simple rational number ordering with the card sort and throw in a different way for the students to think about the numbers.

Here's a screenshot of my activity:

And in case it's hard to see, here's a blowup of that number line. (Note that students can get a bigger view themselves by tapping on the graph in the activity.)
The idea is that students take the three numbers and match them up with the cards for "Lowest number", "Middle number", and "Highest number". That's fine and interactive, but what I love, love, love is using a number line to represent one of the numbers. I not only hit visual learning styles, but I get the students to think about where the other numbers would go on that image.

The only issue I see is the labels --- this works fine for three numbers (and I have a challenge screen with five numbers), but I don't want the students to get lost with the labels if I had four or seven numbers. As far as I can tell, Desmos does not distinguish between the order of card in a card sort (which would make this a bit easier). But this is a great way to emphasize different ways of viewing rational numbers.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Changing middle school student passwords in GAFE

Our school (not our district) has GAFE accounts, and I and another teacher do the administration of about 800 accounts. This year, I am trying to streamline some of the work and use some of my new JavaScript knowledge. To start, I wanted to create a form that teachers could fill out whenever a student needs their password reset. (Since we have middle schoolers, some of the possible ways an account password could be reset --- e.g., a text message to a phone --- aren't possible.)

First step, I wrote a form to collect information from the teacher about the student:
Next, I enabled the Email Notification for Forms add-on, so that I'm emailed every time a teacher fills out the form.  The step of changing the password I am planning to do manually based on the information in the Google Sheet. But finally, I changed the script in this tutorial (showing how to send email based off a Google Sheet) so that when I run it, the teachers are informed of the student's new password.

I'm glad some of the steps are automated and that I understand the JavaScript well enough to make meaningful edits. However, if there is an easier way to do this, I'd love to hear about it.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Making more of the Mathematical Practice standards

I try to hit the mathematical practice standards in Common Core, but they tend to fall by the wayside when the crunch to hit content hits. I have put up some kid friendly versions in my classroom and try to reference them often (with heavy emphasis on my favorite: "I can show my work in many ways.")

I did some PD this year where we went through the MP standards in depth, and my biggest takeaway was the type of questions I could ask during class to emphasize each of the standards. There's a nice reference on the Louisiana Believes website, but it still has a lot of verbiage for each standard. I decided to try and distill down two questions per standard that I could see myself asking 6th graders.

I used the color and the font not just to add variety, but to color code the pair of questions that goes with each standard. I'm putting this over my teacher desk so I can always take a quick look and find a question. If you want a copy of this, you can find the Google drawing here.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Quizlet, Desmos Card Sort, and matching in math class

Last year, I used Quizlet about five times in class. Even though the intended purpose of Quizlet is learning and reviewing vocabulary, I think it works well for a lot of pre-algebra. For example, the below is a screenshot from an iPad where students need to tap on two squares that represent equivalent expressions (using the distributive property):

My students, for the most part, really liked the Scatter game on Quizlet --- I could walk around and see how students were doing and announce the fastest time within a section and among all my sections. If you put enough options in the Quizlet set, students won't necessarily see the same questions every time, so they really need to pay attention. The only negative I saw was that some students would just tap on squares as fast as possible to get right answers by accident. (If you want, you can see my Quizlet sets at

It turns out Desmos has a relatively new feature called card sort that carries out some of the same functionality. You don't need to have one to one matching, so I tested the feature by creating an activity that assesses whether students can classify a number as an integer or a rational number. Here's the screenshot:
Unlike the iPad version of Quizlet, you drag the boxes together to form groups. You can specify an answer key and see which card were mis-sorted most often (that's a really nice feature!). I'd rather do this on a Venn diagram somehow, but this is a very good second choice. (You can find my activity here.)

I think I could use Desmos card sort for most of the material in 6th grade that Quizlet works for and (as shown above) maybe a bit more. A really good use would be to create cards that show the different ways ratios can be expressed (e.g., rate table, equation, graph, and words.) I'll have to work on that!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Playing with Desmos

The last time I looked at Desmos (about five years ago), it was a cool online graphing calculator, but nothing compared to what I was using in a college classroom (where we had laptops running Maple). However, I looked at it last week with the eyes of a middle school teacher and fell in love with the activities and the activity builder.

The activities are an interesting mix of Nearpod (in that they provide sequenced activities for students) and Formative (in that student answers, including pictures, are displayed to the class). A lot of the activities are aimed higher than 6th grade, which makes sense when you are using a graphing calculator as your interface. My sixth graders do some graphing, but really don't get into the specifics of lines and certainly not anything more complicated. But I was able to find some already built activities that I will think will serve my sixth graders well.

My favorites so far are Tile Pile (which mixes tetris type tiling with ratio tables), Reflections (which does a good job of helping student draw and correct reflections across the x- and y- axis), Exploring Triangle Area with Geoboards and Exploring Quadrilateral Area with Geoboards (which do pretty much what they say), and The (Awesome) Coordinate Plane Activity (picture below).

One thing I really like about the Desmos activity is that you can see all student submissions at once (using the overlay mode). So, for example, in the image above, you would see dots appear representing all the student answers. Hopefully, you see clustering, and if not, you know to do some reteaching. I find this much better to access than Formative where I could only bring up one student at a time (and that after searching for the correct submission).

I've done a little bit of authoring (which is best approached by editing other activities) to create one activity on integers and opposites and another on placing rational numbers on a number line. They are both pretty basic, but I wanted to get a good sense of how the activity builder worked.

I like how you can have graphs with moveable points and text boxes on the same page.
If this works well with my students, I can see a few more activities I want to build. In particular, I know my students can struggle with distance in the coordinate plane, and this looks like a good tool to help them out.

Students access an activity using a code they input at, and they can log in with a Google account if you wish. There's a nice dashboard to see student progress, but unlike Formative, there's no grading scheme that I could find. You will need to provide all the feedback in class. I also found site navigation a bit tricky --- you build your activities at and learn about the tools at, but nothing at either site takes you to the other. I've had one hiccup in what I've tried to do, reported it to Desmos, and got confirmation that it was a known bug within a few hours, so that's decent support.

All in all, I feel like Desmos works better than Formative when it comes to graphing, but I still need to put it to the test in my class.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The three act structure for motivating mathematics

I hadn't checked into Dan Meyer's blog dy/dan for a while (basically since my calculus days), but I am very glad I did. He has a whole category of problems that he has labeled 3act --- meaning that there is a three act structure to the activity. (You can find all these problems at To quote Dan,
There are three steps:
  1. Invite students to try a task that is intuitive, but inefficient or inaccurate.
  2. Help them understand some math.
  3. Invite them to re-try the task and see that with math it’s more efficient and accurate.
A really good example that I can use with my sixth graders is the Nissan Girl Scout cookies activity  where you watch a video that advertises the capacity of a Nissan trunk by stuffing it full with boxes of Girl Scout cookies and then estimating the total number of boxes.

Nissan Girl Scout Cookies – Act One from Dan Meyer on Vimeo.

I was wondering how to use this type of idea (make a prediction, focus on math tools that can help, and then test the prediction) using decimal arithmetic. It struck me that one of the best places you can find decimals in the real world is gas stations, and --- sure enough --- the gas station near me shows both gallons and dollars per gallon to the thousandths place.

So here's my question: how do gas stations figure out your cost to the penny? If I wanted to make the most money from my gas station, I would always round up, but perhaps some gas stations are playing fair and rounding to the nearest penny. I'm thinking of a project where I show some pictures of pumps and charges and ask students how to get the final hundredths place.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Pokémon Go problems for 6th grade math

I've been playing far too much Pokémon Go recently, but assuming the game stays popular, it's fantastic for generating math problems. Here's what I've thought of so far.

Multi-digit long division problems: 

  • To reach the next level you need to earn 10,000 experience points total. If you have already earned 2,350 points, how many Pokéstops do you need to visit (at 50 XP per Pokéstop) to reach the next level?
  • To reach the next level you need to earn 10,000 experience points total. If you have already earned 2,350 points and are a curveball champion (so you can catch already caught Pokémon for 100 XP), how many Pokémon do you need to capture to reach the next level?
Decimal division problem:
  • To hatch an egg, you need to walk a total of 5.0 kilometers. You have walked 0.8 km so far, and can do laps on a waling path that is 1.2 km long. How many laps will you have to do to hatch the egg?
Rates, proportions, and percentages:
  • The picture below shows the progress bar to level up. On my phone it is 450 pixels wide. Based on the picture, what percentage of 10,000 points has been earned so far? How many pixels have been shaded to show the progress?

Decimal arithmetic and unit conversion:
  • What is the difference in weights and heights for the two Raticates shown below? How much would each weigh in pounds (if 1 pound equals 0.45 kg)? How tall would each one be in inches (if 1 inch = 2.54 cm)?

  • Pick a Pokémon that you (or the class) have many of. (For example, Pidgeys or Rattatas.) Find all the weights for the Pokémon you have and find the mean and median. Create a dot plot, a box plot, and a histogram. Try to figure out which Pokémon are labelled XS (or extra small) and XL (or extra large). 
That's what I've come up with so far --- if you have more ideas, let me know!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Teaching concepts and not JUST procedures

Last week, our district hosted some PD based on getting 5th grade and 6th grade math teachers together and collaborating. During the workshop, the organizers emphasized again and again the importance of teaching mathematics on a conceptual level as opposed to just teaching procedures.

Here's an example: if I want to see which fraction is bigger, 13/24 or 7/12, I can use the butterfly method (also known as cross multiplication) to multiply 13 by 12 and 24 by 7 and compare the results. But if I do this, I am not really engaged with the fractions at all. I haven't learned anything new about either fraction, and my answer wouldn't help me put either on a number line. If I at least rewrite the second fraction and realize that 7/12 = 14/24, I have a natural way to determine which fraction is bigger that uses the fractions themselves and not somewhat unconnected whole numbers. Here, the butterfly method is a procedure that may obscure the conceptual understanding that comes from using equivalent fractions.

Well, once I started thinking like this, I started seeing procedures trumping conceptual understanding a lot more. For example, there's a great paper in the NCTM journal Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School called Saving Money Using Proportional Reasoning. It's by Jessica de la Cruz and Sandra Garney and outlines tasks that would make a great project after discussing rates and proportions. Instead of emphasizing cross multiplication, the authors emphasize unit rates and equivalent fractions (which are both hugely important in 6th grade Common Core). Here's a great picture from their article about why cross multiplication can give confusing answers:

What exactly is a dollar-pound?
I was doing some more searching on the potential harmfulness of teaching cross multiplication and found the wonderful site and the free 83 page book that you can download here. It's written by Tina Cardone, and it's full of tricks that math teachers use, the potential harm those tricks may do, and how you can reteach using conceptual understanding. I particularly loved this flowchart on determining if something is a trick:

How often do you hear "Because ____ said so"?
I'm pretty sure I will switch up how I teach dividing fractions just because I read this book (and hopefully will avoid over-reliance on "Keep-Change-Flip"). If you are looking for deeper understanding by your students, this is a good place to start.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Helping with self-regulation

I teach 6th graders, so I often have to work with students who have trouble regulating their emotions (or even recognizing their emotions). What I usually see is students struggling with anger, but I have a lot of "hyped" students as well, who need a chance to calm and refocus. Helping these students is one of the reasons I've been doing some research on mindfulness, but (thanks to my wife) I found a great book that focuses on physical exercises.

The Kid's Guide to Staying Awesome and In Control by Lauren Brukner is probably intended for elementary school kids, but there's a lot here that middle school students can use as well. The first half of the book is written to the kid and classifies emotions as "slow and tired", "fast and wiggly", and "fast and emotional". Then Brukner outlines "Anywhere Body Breaks" (basically, short focused physical activities that can be done in your seat with minimal disruption to the class). An example would be a hand massage, where you use the thumb of one hand to press on the muscles of the opposite hand. The goal here is to give the body proprioceptive input to either calm down the student or help them stay more focused.

There's a lot of stuff besides the "Body Breaks", including more intensive physical activity and tools (e.g., fidget balls) that reflect Brukner's background as an occupational therapist. (The second half of the book, aimed at the parent/teacher, provides more resources as well as pages to copy to help students.) But what I plan to use are the "Body Breaks". I have used student separation in the past, but I often did not do much with it --- the student worked in a corner that was hopefully free of distractions, but I didn't guide the student to help her or him with self-regulation. If I can provide students with a menu of options (the stuff in this book, self-reflections, writing prompts), I have more tools to help the students help themselves.

If you're interested in this type of therapy, Lauren Brukner has a web page at with details on her work and information on this book and its sequel.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Really... Playlists are a thing??

Now, I'm no stranger to YouTube: I have a channel (Dr. Mark Schlatter's Math Videos --- real spiffy title, huh?), and I have up about 130 videos that I have created over the last four years. But I didn't understand playlists until this past week.

Note that I'm pretty unadorned when it comes to search. I don't use filters in my Gmail, and I only add folders to Google Drive when I absolutely have to. For the most part, I trust that a Google search will find what I need. But I hadn't realized how playlists make it easier for folks to find connected material.

I created one recently to put together my tutorials on Google Forms, but it wasn't until training to take the Google Certified Educator Level 1 certification that I realized (1) that bundling my videos together might be helpful and (2) I can build playlists of other videos.

Since I taught college for many years, I have a bunch of videos for the calculus sequence (especially the second year), so I built some playlists to bundle those together.

(There's an eigenvalue/eigenvector video in the first playlist that's fairly popular.)
But I also realized that I can build playlists of videos I show in my middle school classroom, not only to help me remember them (much better than looking at what I had embedded in my slides from last year), but so I can send students to the playlist to help them out. Right now, these playlists are a bit sparse, but I expect to grow them over the year.

And I need to add in some of my own videos....
Building playlists is super-easy --- you just find the "+ Add to" under the bottom left hand corner of the video (look under the description) and add the video to an existing playlist (or create a new one).

See that "+ Add to" at the bottom left?

Here's the dialog box I get --- yours will be differ depending on what
playlists you have created.
For most folks, I'm guessing this is not news. For me, this is a big example of how I am still learning.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Image-based quizzes in Formative

Looking at Richard Byrne's blog post, How to Create Image-Based Quizzes in Formative, I decided to take a look at the feature and test it out. I've used Formative a few times in my math class, but always had a few issues:
  1. Having students log in with their Google accounts was difficult --- it worked, but students were not good at logging out from both Formative and Google Classroom at the end of class, and that caused serious problems for the next class.
  2. The sketching UI is nowhere as nice as The line work isn't as smooth, so my students have problems writing out text and erasing is much more difficult. This appears to be a problem on iPads only.
  3. My local network is a little too slow to show student responses well on my Smartboard.
Given all that, I love the concept of Formative, it's just that the execution is problematic at times.

You can follow the instructions on how to create this type of quiz on Byrne's blog (he has a video). I wrote up a quiz where my students would critique two solutions to a rate problem. You can view and take the quiz yourself by going to

What works great about this type of quiz is that the questions can be located right next to the information in question. So above, I am asking students to correct the error in the final answer right next to the error itself.

You can see the same feature in this image. Question 3 appears right where the unit rate is computed.  You can also see question 4 down below, ready to be clicked on (it's a question on decimal division). This isn't a huge change from what you can do in a Google Form, but it's slightly more interactive and I can see my students having some fun trying to find the questions as they work through an image.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Mindfulness resources

I have done a few mindfulness exercises in my class (usually with a chime and a prompt to students to listen carefully and then raise their hands when they can no longer hear the tone), but I decided to do more investigation this summer. I have benefited from meditation myself, and I want to teach more students some strategies for self-regulation.

A helpful book is Mindfulness for Teachers by Patricia A. Jennings. It is much more focused on teachers and their reactions than students, but since Jennings is trying to get teachers to model mindful thinking, the emphasis makes sense. There's a lot on understanding emotions and the basics of mindfulness, but it didn't get too "new age" for me and there are exercises at the end of each chapter for teachers. There's also a ton of resources at the back, including research on the effects of mindfulness in the classroom. This is definitely going into my classroom library.

When it comes to mindfulness activities for students, there's a lot of curriculum you can pay for. I was looking for something smaller in scope and hopefully free. (Since I don't have my students all day long, I really can't commit a large chunk of time.) My absolute favorite resource for this is the activity page at Mindful Teachers. There are about 25 activities excerpted from mindfulness curricula and books, and I think I can use at least half of them in my classroom. The activities are broken down by types ("Relaxation", "Five Senses", etc...) and all of them are fairly short.  I hope to use these as my go-to exercises in the fall.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Grading in Google Forms: What does feedback look like?

If you want to use Google Forms to grade student work using their tools (and not, for example, Flubaroo's), there's a lot of ways to give students feedback on how they did. I'm going to cover some of the quiz-wide options you have. (There are also options you can give for each question which I'm not covering here.) BTW, I haven't made a video for how to make a Google Form quiz, but you can go to Richard Byrne's blog post Free Technology for Teachers: How to Enable Automatic Grading in Google Forms for a quick video overview.

When you decide to make a Google Form a quiz, in the quiz settings you will see the following options checked by default.
Let's look at what each of these options do in detail. I created a sample quiz and answered it the same way while choosing different options out of the three above. Here's what I get with all three chosen:
Note a couple of things: we get a score for each question and a total score (because we checked "Point values"), we get red and green highlighting of incorrect and correct answers (because we checked "Missed questions"), and we get the correct answer to the checkbox question we missed (because we checked "Correct answers").

Here's what we get if we just check "Missed questions":
Notice the red and green highlighting.

Here's what we get if we just check "Correct answers":
Notice everything is in grey.

And here's what we get if we just check "Point values":
Notice the score at the top and next to each question.
When I use Google Forms for formative assessment in my classroom, my students like to look at answers from other students. To encourage as much learning as possible (and not just copying), I will probably check "Missed questions" and "Point values", but not "Correct answers" (so a tough question will need everyone to think about it). If I use this for summative assessment and a grade, I will probably not check any of the boxes. Your mileage may vary, and I'd love to hear about different ways of using these options.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Programming resources: part 2

In my last blog post, I wrote about the programming tools I use (primarily Scratch) to work with middle school students in our video game programming club. For many students, the block-based approach in Scratch along with the emphasis on game programming is a good challenge. However, I did have a few students who would have benefited from something more intensive.

Since I didn't want to use (that's already being used by our robotics class), I followed a student suggestion and tried out codecademy. Unlike Scratch and, codecademy is intended for adult learners and offers courses in a number of programming languages.

Some of the choices in codeacademy
I worked through two languages: Python (because I knew the syntax was very straightforward) and JavaScript (for a number of reasons which you can find below). In both cases, the teaching method was the same. You had separate lessons introducing each topic, with each lesson broken up into tasks that you had to complete before moving to the next task. (For example, an introductory task might be to write code to print out "hello world!") If your code isn't right, you can't move on, but if it is, you make progress, eventually earned badges and points. By the way, all of this is free and just requires signing up with an email address.

A sample task from the JavaScript unit
Could middle schoolers handle this? Well, at least a few of my students from this year could probably make progress in this environment. There is some math required (especially in the Python unit), but it is mostly exponents, decimal arithmetic, and understanding mod and remainders. Both of the units I took covered Boolean operators (which I think talented students could handle) and the basics of object-oriented programming (which may be too much).

If I give this option for students this coming year, I will use JavaScript for a couple of reasons:
  1. There's something really cool about coding dialog boxes that appear in your browser --- I think my students will love that!
  2. If my students are advanced enough, JavaScript can lead up to the App Lab at
  3. If I become fluent enough in JavaScript, I might be able to better understand Google Apps Script and learn to use scripts to supplement what I do with Google Apps in my classroom.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Programming resources: part 1

Last year, I decided to sponsor a club for the first time and created a video game programming club. After a fair bit of research, I decided to use Scratch for the purpose. While it didn't work on my iPads (a HTML5 version is apparently forthcoming), I was able to use a computer lab in my wing to get students started.

When I started the club, I focused on the basic tutorials in Scratch and my students remixed projects like:
Some of the Scratch starter projects
As I continued, however, I decided I wanted a greater variety of games and more help for my students. (I had about 20 showing up each month, and they needed more help putting commands together.) I built a simple webpage for the club and directed students to the Google CS First material on game design. What I liked about the site was that it broke game design into nice small chunks for the students (watch a video, carry out the steps in Scratch, repeat) and offered a nice selection of games types. In the spring, my students worked on the racing game, the platform game, and the escape game, and some students put up their final projects in a class studio.

The Ridgewood Middle School Studio
For a first year attempt, I thought the whole thing worked well. The biggest problem was tracking student work. As far as I know, the Scratch team is still working on teacher accounts (which would give the teacher the ability to enroll a class). So instead, my students log in with their own usernames and passwords, and I attempt to connect us all up by following each other and having students be curators of the studio. It's not a simple system, and it's made harder when students forget passwords. I'd like something like the set up at Code Studio (which I don't use since the robotics course at my school uses the curriculum). 

For this coming year, I'm hoping to have a better system set up for tracking student work and more challenging work for the students who have already done a year in Scratch. More on that (hopefully) in my next post.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Kahoot! profiles

A quick post today. Kahoot! has created a nice feature: profiles of Kahoot! creators. I was asked to participate in the beta stage of profiles and was finally able to get mine up. I like the idea of following different creators as they post their quizzes, but I don't think the site is up to that yet. However, if you want to check out my quizzes, go to

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Setting up my own memes in Quizizz

This past year, I started using Quizizz for the first time. I had been using Kahoot! for a few years, but I did like bringing in Quizizz for a couple of reasons:
  1.  The students liked a change of pace from Kahoot! and really appreciated the avatars.
  2. I liked that students were answering different questions at different times.
  3. I was able to walk around when students were done and see accuracy rates for different students (and even use those for motivation --- "The high score in 1st period was 83%. Let's see if someone can beat that!")
When Quizizz rolled out their meme creation interface, I decided to make my own for my quizzes. (Quizizz posts a meme after every answer submitted.) You can see some of the results below or find all the memes here. I tried to do some personalization (so my name or our school name appears sometimes) and emphasize that incorrect answers mean you just have to try again, learning from your mistakes.

Memes for correct answers on the left, for incorrect answers on the right

You can see I mention myself and our mascot (the Ridgewood Raiders)
It's a clever idea, but I'm not sure how much impact it had on my students. One issue I did have is that these images took longer to load than the standard Quizizz memes, so often a new question would start before a student saw the meme. However, I did get some students reacting to the memes and one who asked if I really was giving money for correct answers (as seen below):

Sadly, I did not pay the student.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Google Forms now supports quizzes!

Yes, yes, yes! Thanks to a post from Richard Byrne I learned that Google Forms now support quizzes. (You can find the official announcement here. ) I have some images from a test quiz I created below, but here are my quick takeaways:
  • The response summary page shows the most missed questions (below 50%) and now shows multiple choice responses as a bar graph instead of a pie chart.
  • You see student scores next to their email addresses.
  • You get a median, average, and range of scores.
  • If you store responses in a Google Sheet, the score is passed to that sheet.
  • You can still collect short answer responses that are ungraded --- they will still be passed to the Google Sheet.
  • There's an option where you can release scores later after your review.
  • You can give feedback for correct and incorrect answers.
In short, this is what Google Forms has needed for education for a long time. I'm looking forward to using this in my classes!

What a student sees after submission

Some basic statistical information about the quiz

Student and question breakdowns

Creating posters for my classroom

When I started teaching, I was okay with fairly blank walls (or putting up the left over posters from the teacher before me). These days, with some prodding from my administration, I do a lot more with visual imagery and try to design posters myself.

Last year, I took a look at Piktochart to create some infographics, but didn't find the interface easy enough to use for my purposes. Eventually, I just created posters in MacOS's Pages, which does a much better job of page layout than Microsoft Word.  Here's an example:

(Yes, I try to do that rap in class when possible...) In the middle of last year, I used one of the many meme generator sites ( to create some images (but sadly haven't put them up yet).

Recently, as I've looked to put more inspirational posters up in my classroom, I have taken my wife's suggestion to use Canva. It takes a while to get used to the interface (especially when adding text) and there's a lot of stuff you can pay for, but I like the results. Here's what I created today: 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Starting in on interactive notebooks

This fall, all of our core classes will be using interactive notebooks (after a pilot project in our science classes).  For someone who loves working digitally, working with paper (and glue and tape and scissors) will be a challenge, but I like the idea of students of creating a resource they can use again and again.

To help me out, I've started a Pinterest board to help me keep track of ideas. (You can find the board at Interactive notebooks for 6th grade math --- image below.) So far, I have really appreciated the coverage at --- the author has a great sense of organization, both on the notebook level and the classroom level.

Finally, a wonderful video on making glue sponges! (Because I really don't want to handle glue sticks or bottles for all of my 6th graders....)

Friday, June 24, 2016

How to use Google Forms in the classroom (with videos)

I've done a lot with Google Forms in my classroom over the last few years, with more and more as I've moved to Google Classroom. I usually have my students do two to three Google Forms a week, often as bell ringers. Since my school district is hopefully moving to GAFE for all schools, I thought I would create a few videos showing how I create, deploy, and use Google Forms.