Kahoot! Studio and Retrieval Practice

In my experience, many students LOVE Kahoot!  The game… the competition… the music… the leaderboard… all of it.

And by now, it’s almost cliche to say “it’s NOT about the tool, it’s how you USE the tool that matters”.  As with all tools, using Kahoot when appropriate can be very effective, and kids might not realize they’re learning!  In math class, use Kahoot carefully.  We don’t want to make kids feel unnecessary anxiety or reinforce that fast math = you’re good at math.   So, before we poo poo the fact that much of Kahoot! relies on timed-tasks and a little friendly competition… please… don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. Let’s not dismiss a tool that KIDS LOVE that can be used strategically and effectively.

I had the pleasure of attending a session at an Apple Institute this summer that presented brain research regarding the concept of “retrieval practice” or the “testing effect” – namely… instead of being a teacher who’s always trying to put information INTO students’ brains… provide plenty of opportunities for them to pull information back OUT of their brains as a means of LEARNING and RETAINING concepts.  The “testing effect” is not about “tests” or “grades” in the traditional sense; rather, students are “testing” their own ability to understand, apply, and retain concepts.

Tools like Socrative and Kahoot! serve students well in this purpose.  Teach by asking questions, one at a time, and display the class results for each question so we can talk about them, correcting misconceptions in a low-stakes no-grades-here retrieval practice environment that’s also fun!

Note: It’s easy to get swept up in the Kahoot “leader board” and classroom energy without pausing to consider and discuss student responses between questions.  Don’t miss the opportunity for some valuable classroom dialogue here.  Putting on the breaks before advancing to the next question is a great way to reteach and have conversations with students about the content at hand!  

I’ve had the pleasure of partnering with Kahoot! Studio the past few months – “a new offering of original, ready-to-play games from Kahoot! content creators and our partners within education, publishing, entertainment and other industries”.  These standards-aligned and curated Kahoot! experiences might serve your students well in retrieval & distributed practice.

My favorite part about this creation opportunity has been using the Kahoots! with my OWN students, and seeing their excitement and success.  GHOST MODE is a favorite feature, as well as using the Kahoot! app to share CHALLENGES that can be done asynchronously.

A comprehensive collection of Kahoot! Studio math resources can be found here.

I’ve also created this Google Sheet to organize the Kahoots! I’ve been working on, aligned to Texas Algebra 1 TEKS.  This document will change as new Kahoots! are created and released!

Distributed practice?

Retrieval practice?


“BLIND” Kahooting?



There are so many ways a Kahoot! can be used with students!

How are YOU using Kahoot! in math class?

Posted in Algebra 1, Pre-Algebra | 2 Comments

Mathy New Year! Oh Yeah… I Teach Math.

Enjoying Pandora – it was 46º outside!

So I’ve been away from the classroom for two-and-a-half weeks.  I’ve celebrated the holidays with a house full of guests and friends, and braved Disney World at this most wonderful time of the year (in unseasonably cold temps) so forgive me if I’ve forgotten just a little that… oh yeah, I teach math. 🙂  A rest is necessary for those of us who eat, sleep, and breathe what we do, so I’m thankful to have had this time to refresh and pursue other hobbies and interests.

Anyone who knows me can speak to my second passion – interior design and home improvement projects!  We bought a fixer-upper several years ago, and the to-do list never ends… and I’m okay with that!  Just as with teaching, there’s always room for improvement, implementing fresh ideas, and learning from mistakes!

Most recently, I couldn’t resist a smokin’ Black Friday deal to buy a box of peel-and-stick reclaimed wood to give my 1980s kitchen peninsula a facelift.  I didn’t anticipate that all of the pieces of wood would vary in size so much, so this little project quickly became mathy.  I was NOT about to run out of wood OR have to make unnecessary cuts, so I took inventory of the wood that was shipped and turned to Apple’s Keynote to make a plan.

First, I created a custom slide size that would represent the area of the two cabinet faces I wanted to cover with wood.  Using points as my units, I created color-coded rectangular shapes to represent the piles of wood, moving the shapes like puzzle pieces to fill the faces.  I was short two small lengths and became immediately thankful that I’d requested free wood samples a year ago – those two pieces saved the project!

A dry run on the floor before peeling-and-sticking…

…and VOILA!  Mission accomplished!  I seriously don’t know how anyone could complete such a project successfully without a color-coded Keynote plan! 🙂

I also made the impulsive decision to sell my former counter-height dining room table and chairs on Craigslist (we NEVER sat in those tall chairs…) several short weeks before Christmas, knowing the aforementioned house full of family and friends would be coming over… what was I thinking?

I needed a new dining set pronto, and had to make a plan.  Again, scale models on a Keynote slide and some research regarding recommended clearances between dining chairs, walls, table sizes, etc. helped me plan what to buy.

VOILA!  After a bad shipment of broken chairs, tracking our table down and retrieving it from a local warehouse that was too booked up to deliver it before Christmas… we DIDN’T have Christmas dinner on my dining room floor after all!

And, I got to share a little ed-tech fun with family by designing a Kahoot for us all to play together after dinner!

Speaking of Christmas, I received an unexpected gift in the mail from one of my kind students in NCTM’s “Seeking Students Who Hide” online course this past fall.  A beautiful card and set of magnets from Taiwan greeted me in my teacher mailbox before break.  This kind blog post is a gift I will forever cherish.

I am so thankful for my students – the adolescents and the grown-ups alike.  Thank you for helping me grow, and for your kindness!

Best wishes as we embark on 2018 together!


Posted in Algebra 1, Pre-Algebra | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Precise Language and “The Baby”

My Math 8 students have been exploring linear functions.  These kiddos learn about rate of change and initial value in contexts where slope-intercept form reigns, leaving other linear forms to be emphasized later in Algebra 1.  We’ve also landed planes and launched marbles, but I felt an emphasis on graphing by hand would be a good warm-up today… just to be sure, after all of our tech explorations, that students still knew how to graph if the skill being assessed was such.

As students grabbed rulers and worked alone while I took attendance, I walked around, and gave them several minutes of individual work time.  To transition, I grabbed a clean warm-up sheet, plopped at the document camera, and asked for volunteers to explain to me, step-by-step, how to graph each function.

Except, I told them I would be a 6-year-old and that I would be doing EXACTLY what they told me to do.  Literally.

Whelp, I can’t express through a post all of the silly things I did, and all of the laughs we had.  I took their instructions very literally, and they howled, eventually leading me to graph each line correctly.  When I transitioned back to “myself” they begged me to be “the baby” again as they explained various problems to me in extreme detail.

There was no lack of volunteers here.  As a matter of fact, they were BEGGING me to call on them.

Could “the baby” help develop precise language with a math concept you’re working on?  

Note: Sense of humor required! 😉

Reminded me of this “Exact Instructions Challenge” and all of this could be extended to this week’s Hour of Code. 🙂

Posted in Algebra 1, Pre-Algebra | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

They Come Pre-Programmed… So What’s Your Next Move?

The title of this post is an idea that I think about several times a week while I’m teaching and planning.  Maybe you’ve been there.

~ You’re solving proportions and a kiddo with stars in her eyes exclaims, “The BUTTERFLY METHOD!”

~ You’re isolating a variable while solving equations, and when you ask what’s next, a student offers, “Well, those cancel out, so you have x = -3…”

~ You’re solving inequalities in one variable, and as you graph the solutions on a number line, an excited student exclaims, “I know a shortcut!  The way the symbol is pointing tells you which way to point the arrow when you graph it!”

Some of these “a-ha” moments might happen as we’re teaching (the inequality idea above, for example).  I have no data to back this up, but my guess is that more often than not, these ideas have been explicitly taught to students by well-intentioned teachers and tutors.  Yet, when students are asked to think differently… well… a recent tweet from Jonathan Osters comes to mind…

When these moments inevitably happen in your classroom, literally, what is your next move?  What’s the expression on your face looking like?  What are the words that you say?  What’s next?

I have handled these moments across the gamut – with grace, all the way down to (sporting my best pouty face), “I never use the word cancel… except when I tell students that I never use the word cancel.”

How do we respect those who are trying to help students by teaching them “tricks”, yet steer things toward learning mathematics for understanding (especially when students LOVE and ADORE a good trick)?  Simply asking and pursuing, “Why does that work?” can help – some students’ reactions are PRICELESS as I watch them UNDERSTAND the mathematics right before my eyes.  Other students look a bit like Osters’ aforementioned tweet, preferring the “trick” that “works” instead.

I’ve gotten lots of ideas for exploring alternatives that promote understanding from Nix the  Tricks.  If they’re already pre-programmed to “FOIL” I’ve found the conversation about why that acronym is so silly (because it only helps when multiplying two binomials) can bring clarity.

Another approach I’ve tried is to create “proactive problems” and ask strategic questions as we work them.  I see huge potential in creating some sort of problems-resource as a community that might help us be more proactive in the moments before a student is just about to utter the “trick”.

~ Instead of cross-products right out of the gate, ask students, “How can we isolate the variable in this equation?”  (What? Proportions are equations?!? I can multiply both sides of the equation by 40 first?  I can DO that?)

~ Instead of saying “cancel” during instruction, verbally describe what’s happening every time using visuals and concepts of identities.  Reinforce this language as students begin to use it when they explain their thinking.

What are your favorite ways of handling “tricky” instructional moments of opportunity?

And, I’d be naive to think there aren’t things that *I* am explicitly teaching my students, with the best of intentions, that might drive my students’ future math teachers nuts.

What topics and methods am *I* teaching right now that will make my students’ future math teachers roll their eyes?

What sort of “proactive problems” handed down from my students’ future math teachers could also help ME know why I might consider changing the way I present certain topics now?

How can we get better at this?

Follow-up: Check out Dan Meyer’s living document of ideas from folks all over to help create “Mathematical Headaches”

Might we create a similar resource along the lines of… “Rethinking Tricks with Proactive Problems” Directory?  or “Instructional Language to Overcome Tricks” Directory?














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Is It Parallel? Using Desmos Card Sorts to Extend Student Thinking

Several years ago, I attended an EdCamp ATX event here in Austin.  One of the sessions featured formative assessment strategies, and a particular task struck me.  I wish I remembered her name, and I wish I still had the resource in hand, but the concept goes like this… each of us was handed a sheet of paper with, say, 9 blocks that formed a larger square.  Each of these 9 blocks contained some information.

At the top of the sheet was the simple question… “Is It a Rock?”

At our seats (probably alone first, then in groups) we had to analyze the information provided in each of the 9 blocks and decide, did that piece of information describe a rock? Yes or No?  Take a stand.  I loved the simplicity of the question, and the depth of the information provided in each square on the handout.

Why not for math?

I started thinking of questions we could ask students… Is It Linear?  Is It Parallel?  Is It Perpendicular?  Is it a Direct Variation?

Maybe you’re thinking of some “Is It ________?” questions that are coming up in your own mathematics curriculum.  Though the question is simple, and the answer will be “Yes” or “No”, the beautiful part of this strategy is choosing what you’d like to put in those (9 is an arbitrary number of) blocks.

So, I made this.

I created a few different versions using a Pages template I whipped up, asking students various “Is It ________?” questions.

This week, I assigned one of these for homework.  At the start of class the following day, students discussed their stances on each of the 9 blocks.

I walked around and listened to their conversations and arguments.  In the past, my next move would have been to place my own sample key on display for students to check their work, and have a little Q & A as needed, and that would have been it.


But I’m glad it didn’t end there.

This time, rather than show “my” key, I asked students to show their final stances on each of the 9 blocks by completing a Desmos Card Sort that contained the same 9 equations as the handout.  In theory, students had plenty of time to do the work they needed to do for the 9 blocks independently as homework, and had a chance to talk it out with a friend and possibly make revisions, but no “answer key” had been provided this time.

As students started to sort their cards to match the thinking on their papers, we started to see some red stacks.  The polarizing feedback of a Desmos Card Sort can be harsh sometimes… a stack turns red if EVEN ONE card is out of place, so this was eye-opening.

When students were surprised by red stacks, there was a new level of engagement in the room.  They started talking more, asking more questions of one another, and darn it… they wanted GREEN STACKS!

They asked better questions too.  “Wait, can a line be parallel to ITSELF?”  Or, understanding NOW that (2x)/3 and (2/3)x are equivalent, and WHY 2/(3x) is not the same. Catching errors through showing more work than they initially had… and, to be fair, some didn’t show ANY work at all at the start, as my handout’s directions didn’t seem to require it… all that was “required” was a checkmark, no?

The question, “WHY IS MY STACK RED?” was a lot more intriguing than, in the past, “Why doesn’t my paper match Mrs. Yenca’s answer key?”

You see, I don’t think they ever really wanted MY answer key anyway.  Once Card Sort became part of the experience, they wanted to create their OWN key.

And that’s what they did.

Below is a PDF file of this “Is It Parallel?” task, as well as a link to a Desmos Activity.  The Desmos Activity can be used independently, or “chunked” as I’ve described here.

I’d love to hear about some “Is It ________?” questions you’re thinking about!

Is It Parallel?






What are some “Is It __________?” math questions you could ask your students, using this “blocks” format?

How could a Desmos Card Sort follow-up bring engagement and encourage more dialogue and deeper understanding to the task?












Posted in Algebra 1, Pre-Algebra | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

TASM Mini-Conference and #NCTMregionals Orlando

It’s been quite the conference-y week!  I had the opportunity to share with math leaders from all over Texas at the TASM Fall Mini-Conference in Austin as well as present and hang out with math educators from all over at Orlando’s NCTM Regional Conference.

Here are a few big ideas I learned about, as well as some resources from my own session.

  1. Relevance

I finally had the privilege to meet Denis Sheeran and experience the themes of his book in person!  {Here are his slides if you weren’t able to make it.}

BIG IDEAS: Always be on the look-out for math, capture photos of math, encourage students to ask questions about the world around them and pursue these questions… even if they’re “unanswerable”… and all the while, don’t be afraid to tell a “little white lie” to make a story that leads to making math more personal.  An example: Check out slides 18 and 19 for photos of Denis’ driveway covered with snow… great volume example in the making!  “Did we shovel a ton of snow?”  Little white lie… when presenting the problem to your OWN students, perhaps say that the driveway in the photo is YOURS!  Disclaimer: This strategy MAY not work with this particular example in Texas… 😉


2.  Creativity & Play

Michael Fenton of Desmos provided an opportunity for playing with mathematics through the Point Collector: Lines activity.  With a 2-person-per-device ratio, we took turns using linear inequalities to “capture” points in the coordinate plane.  There’s a catch to collecting those points (go play to see what I mean) that made this activity a delightful challenge.

To add to the excitement, Michael revealed an up-and-coming in-development Desmos feature for our students… a “Challenge Gallery” where students create their OWN Desmos Point Collector task to end the activity experience, they conquer their OWN challenge, then have the opportunity to view and play challenges created by their PEERS.  WHAT!?!?  AWESOME!  I can’t wait to see where and how the folks at Desmos incorporate this idea of student-created tasks-within-activities!

To virtually participate in Michael’s NCTM session, check out the Facebook Live archive.


3. Accessibility & Equity

I had the pleasure of experiencing first-hand an instructional routine called “Contemplate then Calculate” in a session facilitated by Jennifer Lee Kim, Liz Ramirez, and David Wees.  You can check out a boatload of resources here as well!  Experiencing this routine as a learner AND THEN “unpacking” the rationale behind each component revealed the intentionality of each phase in terms of promoting equity and access for ALL students.

In gist, students are provided with a learning target to start, and the teacher initially “flashes” an image of a problem for literally a FRACTION of a second.  Students are encouraged to share noticings (the quick flash prevents ALL students from “solving” the problem, and empowers ALL students to notice elements of the problem instead).  Next, students explore the problem, looking for efficient ways to solve/simplify it (our task focused on simplifying an algebraic expression in several ways, each of which was more efficient than “going from left to right”).  Valuing multiple-approaches and encouraging student dialogue (providing sentence stems as supports) gave every student access to the task.  More details can be found here.


4. Student Voice

Though the title stays the same, every time I present this session, I tweak it.  Okay, so actually, I re-create the entire thing in an attempt to improve and keep current with ever-changing tools and tasks.

With only 60 minutes to share, I provided rationale for using digital tools strategically, modeled ways to use Socrative for strategic and on-the-fly questioning, and Nearpod for submitting and showcasing student work as the impetus for dialogue in class.  I hinted that Desmos Activity Builder is a pretty great way to implement rich tasks in combination with great strategies out there (Which One Doesn’t Belong? Open Middle!  Visual Patterns!  Dan Meyer’s 3-Act Tasks!)

Here’s a Google Site full of take-aways, including a link (ALLLL the way at the end of the site) to dabble in my ShadowCon follow-up online course, which NCTM and ShadowCon leadership have allowed to remain open so folks can explore ideas presented in my 60-minute session over the course of… days!  Weeks!  Months!  This entire school year! Whatever works for you.   Don’t feel a commitment pressure from words like “online course” or “module” – just get in there, check out the possibilities, and if something really cool happens in your classroom with your kiddos, come back and tell us about it.  I get an e-mail from Canvas daily about the activity that happens in the course, so if it’s just you and me having a follow-up convo, I’m totally cool with that.



Lastly, it’s ALWAYS a pleasure to hang out with fellow mathies “IRL” at conferences, to talk about math, teaching, life, and simply be humans together.  

Until next time… see you on the Twitters, and keep doing the good work!


Posted in Algebra 1, Pre-Algebra | Leave a comment

Desmos Learning Target Student Reflections (Inspired by a Tweet)

I’ve been MIA over here on this ol’ blog!  Besides the usual back-to-school business, I’ve been having so much fun interacting with folks in the #ShadowCon17 follow-up online course for my “Seeking Students Who Hide” talk back in April at #NCTMAnnual.  Shout-outs to Dan Meyer, Zak Champagne, and Michael Flynn for the opportunity to share and for their ongoing support!  P.S. If you’re late to the ShadowCon after-party, I think you can still join in and catch up!  Click the link above for info!

School is off and running… one of the smoothest starts to a school year that I can remember.  Kids are awesome. Our district is focusing on S.E.L. (Social Emotional Learning), as many likely are, so I feel like our staff is more relaxed overall, just knowing that our focus is to be well, and that we’re being encouraged to take time to teach things that fine folks like Jo Boaler are taking the time to teach.  Life is good.

I’ve let so many ideas come and go without blogging about them lately, but you’re holding me to this one! 🙂 Here goes – so I saw this tweet by Paul Jorgens, using Desmos Activity Builder in conjunction with learning targets, and I was immediately curious!

Quick history: In our district’s PLCs, when new math standards showed up in Texas several years back, we created lists of learning targets, used these as we designed assessments and lessons, and ideally used them with our students (hence the kid-friendly I CAN language).

Whelp, my learning targets have been living in PDF form in a Google Drive folder that students CAN access, but I hadn’t been really doing anything WITH them lately.  This kid-friendly language was sitting in Drive, and I was willing to wager that exactly 0% of my kids were reading that kid-friendliness.

Enter Paul’s tweet, and me… being me….  I pretty much immediately opened all of those learning target documents and converted each unit to a Desmos Activity Builder checklist screen.  With a test coming up this week, I decided I’d launch the target screen for the current unit for each of my Math 8 classes as the first task in our review.

I started class by asking students, “What are learning targets?” and having that discussion first.  Then, I told them I was going to give them a target checklist for our current unit.  I asked them to read each target silently and individually, only placing a checkmark in the box on their iPads if they felt like experts on each specific target.  If they were even slightly unsure, or feeling like they needed a bit more help before our unit test, I asked them to NOT check the box.  I assured them that their responses would remain anonymous, and that our goal would be to look at the class as a whole before we began our review, so that we’d know which concepts to give a little more emphasis.

I launched the Desmos Activity, “locked” students on only the current unit’s target screen, and anonymized them.  With the new handy-dandy Desmos Teacher Dashboard, I looked for student dots to all turn blue, indicating that every student had completed the task.  Once all dots were blue, I pressed PAUSE so student responses would be locked in.

I showed students the results (anonymized) so we could see which targets included every student, and which targets showed a reduced number of students.  “It looks like we all feel pretty confident about representing rational numbers as fractions as decimals, but we lost a few students for scientific notation, classifying real numbers, and estimating square roots.”

*Click the link below to see a quick screencast of the results*

Learning Targets Desmos

After this Desmos learning targets self-assessment, I gave students a jigsaw activity on paper: 8 topics, 8 groups, one unit topic per “expert group”.  For the groups that were tasked with scientific notation, classifying real numbers, and estimating square roots (topics identified as needing more work in our Desmos checklist) I let them know we’d need some extra support and help!  Each expert group worked through and presented their problems to the class while the other students checked their own work, made corrections, and asked questions of our student “teachers”.

I would have done this sort of review activity without the Learning Target emphasis in years past, but I felt like identifying areas of concern ahead of time helped with focus! Test day is tomorrow, and while I can’t be sure of a way to measure exactly how this learning target reflection may or may not impact student confidence and competence, I feel like the time asking students to consider every target was well spent.

I personally interviewed students about how they felt after using these learning targets as part of the review process.  Here are some direct quotes.

“It helped me kind of get reminded of how much things are expected to be on the test.  Everything on the learning targets you expect to be on the test, so you have to figure out for yourself if you actually know what you’re doing or not.”

“Sometimes you don’t know how much you know or how much less you know about math, and if you don’t know it, it will just help you focus on that.”

How do you use “learning targets” with students?

Want to grab my draft activity and tweak it for your own use?  Here you go!

P.S. It’s a draft!  Our PLC still has some editing to do, as you’ll see when you view the screens, but I thought I’d share anyway so you can give this a go and share back about your own classroom experiences!     SaveSave SaveSaveSaveSave SaveSave SaveSave SaveSave SaveSave SaveSave SaveSave SaveSave



Posted in Algebra 1, Pre-Algebra | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

ShadowCon Follow-Up: Free Online Courses

I had the honor of sharing about two big ideas that impact teaching and learning in my classroom at the NCTM Annual Conference back in April – formative assessment and technology integration.  This pairing can give every student a voice, making “seeking” students who often “hide” right in front of us a priority.  Giving value to every student’s thinking, both correct and incorrect, can change classroom culture to a place where mistakes truly ARE part of learning.  Sharing this student thinking so that the students themselves can see it (anonymously most likely… at least at the start of the school year) helps involve students with instructional next-steps, eliminating that “deserted island in math class” feeling that I often experienced as a middle-school learner years ago.

For many of us, the first day of the 2017-18 school year has passed, or is upon us this week. Let’s continue the ShadowConversation (you see what I did there)!  Check out Dan Meyer’s blog post for details.




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First Day Plans: Mine *DO* Include Smiling

When Nancy tweeted her “first-day first-year big tweet“, I felt a tug at my heart for 2 reasons:

REASON 1: I remember being there!  During the summer of ’99, after graduating from college, getting married, moving to a new city, and landing my first full-time teaching gig, I had read Harry Wong’s “The First Days of School” cover-to-cover, with hopes and plans to replicate all that I had learned.


REASON 2: I remembered that the only resource I had to lean on during that time was... a book! Sometimes a profoundly simple “big tweet” can serve as a reminder of how far we, a tweeting and blogging global math-ed PLN, have grown.

In my early years, not smiling until Christmas was the vibe.  Establishing *my* authority was the priority.  Showing kids who owned the knowledge in the room (me, the teacher of course #TongueInCheek) was important.  I even remember wearing dress clothes I didn’t like and carrying a leather briefcase I didn’t need just to help me look not so new to teaching!

No lie – my first day teaching, I walked into the classroom as the late bell rang, and a kid blurted out, “How old *ARE* you?!?!

Stupid dress clothes.  Stupid briefcase.

Ah, the passing years have cured that incident from ever happening again.

Bringing it forward to 2017, I like the shift of making student-to-teacher and student-to-student relationships a priority on day 1.  It works for me, especially because I can’t make it through the first 14 seconds of class on the first day of school without smiling.  I’m happy to see a new group of learners, and I can’t wait to get the year started!

In light of the abundant online sharing through blogs and tweets, the toughest part every year is deciding on which tasks and activities to do during those first few days, since there are so many great ideas out there!  So… instead of putting all sorts of pressure on Day 1, I have a continuum of the first few days’ happenings, and whatever doesn’t get finished on the first day can certainly extend into the next few days… or next semester, right?  We do get to spend the next 9-10 months with these kiddos, so spread out some of the awesomeness for later in the year!

And, with the National Eclipse happening on our first day of school with students this year… it’s time to be flexible right outta the gate!

To keep myself organized, I’ve created a Tackk of activities to reference the first few days of school, and I edit it each year as I try new things.  Tackk is a great freebie – each Tackk is a “digital flyer” with its own unique URL, so it’s a sort of mini website folks can design with a specific purpose in mind.  I like Tackk because I can house print resources and digital media easily in one place.

Read along for a play-by-play of the first few things I have in mind this year, and check out the Tackk where I keep it all.  (I display this Tackk on my SmartBoard.)

Greet students at the door.  Invite them to sit anywhere and hand them each a two-sided handout (WHO I AM on one side, an -ING Word prompt on the other side… read on and check out the Tackk).  It’s a great time to see who they choose to sit with, and if anyone has just revealed who they actually shouldn’t sit with once assigned seats come later.  Give ’em the chance to tell on themselves…

Must take attendance at the start of class to make attendance software happy.  Students say a word ending in -ing to describe their summers instead of saying “here”, tell a few short summer stories (I also join in here) and begin “WHO I AM”.  I collect these sheets on Day 2 so they have more time to dedicate to them later.

Yes, on Day 1 I do communicate briefly about expectations and procedures, but I show a short animation video instead of droning on and on.  Everyone watches, trying to figure out how Mrs. Yenca has created this cartoon.  They tap their feet to the music, and try to anticipate what the mysterious hand is going to write next.

“Did you make this, Mrs. Yenca?”

“Is that YOUR hand?”

“How did you make this?”

I tell them I used VideoScribe and that I like to create lots of resources.  As a matter of fact, most of the time I look at the math concepts we’re going to learn this year, peek in the textbook, and try to find and create resources that help us learn what’s in “the book” in different ways.

I ask students to recall, in their groups, as many of the expectations they can remember from the cartoon.  The room bursts into conversation and I can already tell it’s going to be a great year of working in groups and talking about math.

Up next – “Talking Points” – I want to begin conversations about math self-beliefs and begin to establish our classroom culture. After three rounds (outlined in the Tackk, along with a handout I created) I show the YouCubed vid “Brains Grow and Change”. We talk about the brain video and the comments at the bottom of students’ tally sheets.

I think it’s right about now that the bell will be ringing, so I’ll take a quick opportunity to remind students that we use Google Calendar to post daily assignments.  Ideally I will have a reminder posted there that students should bring their completed “WHO I AM” sheets back on Day 2.  Yes, after all the hype about “the first day of school” there actually IS a second day, and a third day, and…

back to the lesson plan continuum… this year I’ve created several videos using Apple’s CLIPS app to reinforce the ideas that we VALUE MISTAKES, we VALUE STRUGGLE, and we need to practice HOW to have conversations with one another effectively when those valuable mistakes happen.  (You can find these brief videos in the Tackk too)

I envision Day 2 beginning with my “Mistakes are Valuable” CLIPS video (to reinforce the YouCubed video we might have ended class with the day before).  In groups (assigned seats today) students will complete the 100 Numbers task.  You need to read Sara Vanderwerf’s blog post and watch Thom Gibson’s video about this task.  

Yes, “NEED” is a strong word, but I am telling you, even though I haven’t used this task yet, I think it’s going to be fantastic in establishing a cooperative-working-math-class culture!  

Per Sara, students will need to work on a math task after the 100 Numbers Task.  I’ve chosen “Up 4 a Challenge?” for Math 8 (otherwise known as The Four Fours, but I don’t want to call it that because I don’t want them trying to Google it too quickly) and “Seal the Deal: Balance the Ark” for Algebra 1 (I changed this title too, so it’s not so easy to Google either… you… see what I did there with the “seal” pun, right?  I slay me.)  I’m going to try to do everything Sara says to do on her blog.  She’s so thorough that I’m almost forgetting I’ve never tried the 100 Numbers task intro to our first math task before.  It’s like, when I read her blog, I feel like I was there, already trying this myself!

Since we have iPads, I may have students use Nearpod to take photos of their work and submit them so we can anonymously showcase them up front and talk about them.  Some classes surprise me and don’t mind having their names attached to their work from the start, while other classes prefer to remain anonymous all year.  We’ll see!

Another resource I’ll have ready is this 1-2-3 activity that gets everyone up, moving, and celebrating failures!

That’s how I plan to begin the year!  How about you?

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ADE Academy #ADE2017 – Unforgettable!

This was my first opportunity to attend an Apple Distinguished Educator Academy that welcomed in a new class of ADEs.  I’ve been looking forward to returning as an alumna while having the chance to welcome a new crew, and I’m especially glad I was chosen to be in Houston this year!


Reuniting with other alumni!

It’s always great to connect with kindred spirits in person!  Many of us live all over the country, and bringing us together in one space ignites an energy that can’t be fully replicated virtually!


Being *wowed* at how the new 2017 class dove right in!

So many 2017-ers were quick to collaborate and share!  I had a blast getting to know my 2017-er roomie Kristen Brooks, and enjoyed her 3-minute showcase, as well as many other new classmates who were absolutely fearless on stage!  And while I’m at it…


Sharing my own 3-minute ADE Showcase (with 2 seconds to spare!)

I felt ready to take on that pesky red 3-minute timer this year, and had 2 seconds left to smile before leaving the stage, ha!  Check out the recording I made of my talk (shared below), inspired by a mini-keynote given by Adam Phyall at iPadpalooza ATX last year.

Creating with Clips!

Our project this year was to create resources using the new iOS Clips app and share them with the world.  Search #ADE2017 and #ClassroomClips and you’ll see a sampling of the work that’s already being shared!  I included my first three attempts at creating with Clips below (inspired in no small part by Jo Boaler and resources available at YouCubed.org).  I’m hoping to use these brief Clips during the first few days of school to help frame my classroom as one where mistakes are valued, struggle is real (but GOOD), and communication is respectful and constructive.  Feel free to use these as well!


Learning from Ben!

I’ll admit it – I adore using Keynote to create… well… EVERYTHING.  However, Ben Mountz raised the bar and had us all gaping in awe when he shared his Magic Move 3-Minute Showcase.  Check it out for yourself below!

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Well, after witnessing this talk live, we were all wanting to know… *how* did Ben create those Keynote portraits of so many ADE “heroes”?  And… Ben was kind enough to oblige:

I was so inspired and excited to give this a go, that I recorded my first attempt!

Alas, as in real life, sometimes a bad hair day is best handled by starting over… 🙂

AND NOW… Why the ADE 2017 Class has ultimate bragging rights

henceforth… summed up in one word…


Our guest speaker was THE Sady Paulson!  If you haven’t heard, she is one of the most inspiring women on the planet.  Check out this sampling of her work:

Sady was kind enough to share a heartfelt talk with all of us, telling of her own triumphs and how Apple technology has empowered her to fulfill her giftings and dreams. She was a joy to meet in person, and her super smile is about the most contagious thing there is!  After Sady shared her stories with all of us, she was surprised by a special announcement… the new ADE class of 125 was about to become 126!  Welcome, Sady!

It was truly OUR honor to hang out with you in person!  Keep up the fantastic work!

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Learn more about Apple Distinguished Educators here!

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