Bell Ringers 4.0

It's time for my annual bell ringer giant powerpoint update! {See the original, version 2, and version 3}

Here are the categories:

Mental Math Monday: 10 middle school mental math problems that I read aloud (no repeats!)
Tough Guess Tuesday: estimation180.com photos that students estimate how many
Which One Doesn't Belong Wednesday: wodb.ca four photos that students can name something unique for each
Test Prep Thursday: practice questions from the SAT, our state test
Factoring Friday: factoring has been a huge pitfall for me so 9-12 will be doing 3-4 factoring problems every dang week!

Here's the breakdown:

Monday and Tuesday are repeated from last year.
Wednesday I used all new pictures thanks to the website updates!
Thursday are mostly questions from SAT Practice Test 1.
Friday factoring problems all came from Kuta. They follow the progression of

  • GCF 
  • Four Term 
  • Four Term with GCF 
  • Trinomial a = 1 
  • Trinomial a = 1 with GCF 
  • Trinomial a > 1
  • Trinomial a > 1 with GCF 
  • Difference of Two Squares 
  • Difference of Two Squares with GCF 
  • Mixed (last 6 Friday slides)

Here's the powerpoint:


I made the factoring progression in a separate powerpoint in case that would be of any use to you.


I'm hoping to use Google Classroom for bell ringers this year. I don't know exactly how that will play out yet but students will definitely be answering digitally in some form. I've always had a section of their binders for bell ringers and printed out a front and back paper every week. But 90 x 52 is 4,680 pages too much. I have dry erase desks that students are obsessed with so they will work them out on the desk and only have to type in actual answers. My vague idea is scheduling the bell ringers to post during the passing period of each class, students answer digitally, and I show the answers on the powerpoint on my SMART board.

Any suggestions would be great!

Font used in all powerpoints is ForgetMeNot.


#DITL Friday, February 10th, 2017 Homecoming!

{It's Homecoming Week! I'm the student council sponsor and I have the smallest group ever with only 11 students. We are responsible for decorating the stage for the coronation, organizing the actual ceremony, dress up days, Spirit Assembly and games, and Homecoming Dance}

6:00 Wake up and began my busiest and longest day of the year.

1st Hour: I walk in and a sub is in my room. I have never had a sub on this day ever. I almost can't believe it. Basically I lucked out that no one was absent and they had to send our permanent sub somewhere. I had nothing planned but students just finished a handout that they started the day before. I am off to the gym for Homecoming rehearsal. We lift down a stair case and two platforms from the stage to the floor, set up giant cardboard pumpkins and glass slippers {can you guess our theme?}, turn on blue lights, and start organizing the 26 students involved in the coronation ceremony. Lights out, mics on, spotlight shining, and....go!

2nd Hour: I go check on students in the home ec room who are making jello and pudding for the Spirit Assembly games. We have some missing pans so I go out to my car and find them. We wrap up the first run through. Adjust and start over. We have to finish by 10:00 because we have a fire drill which they were already nice enough to move back from 9:00. At the end of this second time we have to put every thing back up and clear the gym.

3rd Hour: Fire drill. We come back inside and send students to class. We tried a new idea of a meme contest but I never figured out how to pick a winner and didn't even have them turned in until Thursday afternoon. I brainstorm with principal and he decides I should hang them in the lobby and have middle school students vote. I proceed to tape them up and individually visit each middle school classroom to ask for their votes. Back to the principal's office to brainstorm the cafeteria set up for the dance tonight.

4th Hour: Check on students in home ec room who are baking 8 dozen cupcakes and making pink lemonade for the dance tonight. I plan with students who are decorating for the dance on how and when to set things up since the concession stand for the two basketball games that happen before the Homecoming coronation and dance. I go round up the supplies: napkins, tablecloths, cups, lights, and deliver to home ec room. Back to principal's office to brainstorm how to set up a t-shirt table to raise money for Student Council.

5th Hour: He finds me an awesome cart so I go organize the shirts into piles by size, then make and print signs to hang in front of each pile. Ironically, the mom who has volunteered to help me sell them e-mails me and we hash out the time and plan for the night. Student Council also does a big fundraiser for Valentine's Day so all morning I've been tracking an order from Sam's Club for 300 carnations, hoping they will come in before lunch. After lunch I am booked every minute until midnight. I start getting supplies ready for the Spirit Assembly that starts immediately after lunch. {I already have 12,000 steps by this time.}

Lunch: On my way to get my lunch, the district secretary calls me to let me know the carnations just came in. She has volunteered to open them for me and get them organized into buckets with water and solution. I almost cry at this offer since I have zero minutes to spare. After I finish eating, the elementary school secretary catches me in the hallway- the florist is on the line saying that she gave the wrong order of flowers to my dad. While she stays on the line, I call my dad and send him back to the florist to get the Queen's rose bouquet. Lucky timing? I think not. Jesus has my back.

12:45 My student council meets to get our tubs of supplies and lay out a game plan for the assembly.

1:00-3:10 Let the games begin! During our assembly we play tug-of-war, 3-legged race, 4 corners, hungry hungry hippos, scavenger hunt, hunger games relay race, jell-o eating contest, inch worm race, chariot race, and 3-point shootout. While I am tallying the points, the cheerleaders getting ready for their dance. We announce the winning class- seniors- and hurry to get everything cleaned up before the bell rings.

3:15-4:15 Even though I need to get home and get ready to come back, I still have last minute jobs to finish. I have to proof 14 pages that my mistresses of  ceremonies will be reading and print out final copies. Print out pictures of the court. Deliver last minute dance supplies that I forgot earlier to the home ec room. Finally head home.

4:15-5:30 Go home to grab some food. Laminate the pictures of the court as last minute gifts. Curl my hair. Change my clothes. Sync my phone so that the cheerleader's dance song is on my phone so the girls can practice one last time. Back to school I go!

5:30-6:00 I'm back to school carrying my own Christmas lights to use for dance decorations as well as the Queen's bouquet. I go to the dressing room for the boys and girls. I lay out pictures, programs, and the engraved keychains we've ordered as gifts as long with the flowers each girl will carry. I need a box to put the rest of my programs in so I dump out a box from my cabinet and finally head down to the gym. I'm also the cheerleading coach and the game starts at 6:00. Luckily I walk in the gym and there is an extra 10 minutes on the clock. My girls are warmed up and ready to go.

6:00-8:45 I am now wearing my cheerleading coach hat and at halftimes and between JV and Varsity games, I am circulating to make sure no one needs anything and to check on my t-shirt selling volunteers. Between games I record my girls doing their Illinois loyalty dance. At halftime I record them doing their hip hop dance....and the crowd goes wild. We win 83-44! As soon as the games end, I switch back to my Student Council sponsor hat. My teacher bestie heads down to herd the cats while I open up the stage and the dads in the crowd help me lift down the steps and platform and so on. We get everything ready to go in about 12 minutes. Let's get this show on the road!

9:00 The ceremony begins. I stand by the mistresses of ceremonies during the coronation. At one point, I realize I've forgotten to take the crowns out of the display case. I literally run down the hallway to the lobby just to see that my teacher bestie already had everything under control.

9:45 The ceremony ends. As the crowd mingles, takes pictures, and celebrates, I rush to the cafeteria to get the dance started. My student have already plugged up the lights, poured balloons everywhere, and set up the food and snack table. I turn on the music and then head back to the gym to herd the cats toward the dance.

10:00-11:00 I hide in my little closet in the back of the cafeteria playing DJ on my laptop and iTunes while the 30ish kids who stayed are having a great time.

11:05 I hit the lights and start kicking people out, asking them to take cupcakes and pop balloons on the way out. We get the cafeteria cleaned up pretty quickly but then we have to put all 20 tables back. There are 4 student council kids left at this point and their boyfriends who help. Next we go back to the stage to pop all those balloons and unplug everything.

11:30 All the kids and the superintendent are gone. It's just me and the janitors. I push a cart of random leftover supplies back to my room. I have to print out blank bell ringer templates for my students because I can't be trusted to get to school early enough on Monday morning to do it.

11:45 I'm home. I am cleaning my makeup brushes while I cook chicken strips for a late night dinner.

12:00 I crash on the couch with my chicken strips and "This Is Us" playing. I chase that down with cookies and milk and fall asleep to the joy of having no alarm set.

I ended the day with 28,040 steps which is my personal best and is a total of 12.47 miles.

P.S. It took me an hour just to type all of this! And teachers everywhere know how many millions of tiny things I left out!


Digging Deep Wells

After my post about feeling basic, I got a lot of comments, tweets, and messages of others who are feeling the same. We are not alone! Thank you so much for your feedback and for always pushing me to dig deeper, even to write this follow up post.

I had a great conversation with a few of my longest Twitter teacher friends about this and they also encouraged me to narrow it down to something I can work on and actually change.

Tom had a great comment, especially for a super-logical-organized-planner-rule-follower like myself, which was to use the Charlotte Danielson rubric, which my school uses as an evaluation instrument, to pick some areas to work on. This is exactly what I need to give myself some focus.

As I read through the 4 domains, I was encouraged that I feel like I am rocking Domain 2 and my recent post-observation meeting confirmed that. She pointed how students came in and got their binders and start working, knew where supplies were and got them out when needed, discussed their work with each other without prompting, helped each other pick up stuff when a student dropped a drawer out of the cart, and that my procedures are in place. I thought those were things that came naturally....because they do come naturally...to me. Cue Annie's on point comment. It also follows with how I see I'm a great teacher but not a great mathematician. Domain 1 scares me and I'm floating on sea level in Domains 3 and 4 with plenty of room to grow.

I picked a few things that I thought were doable and I noticed an interesting pattern...

  • The teacher’s plans demonstrate awareness of possible student misconceptions and how they can be addressed
  • The teacher’s plans reference curricular frameworks or blueprints to ensure accurate sequencing. 
  • The teacher connects outcomes to previous and future learning.
  • Assessments provide opportunities for student choice.
  • The teacher uses rich language, offering brief vocabulary lessons where appropriate, both for general vocabulary and for the discipline.
  • Students have an opportunity for reflection and closure on the lesson to consolidate their understanding
  • The teacher’s assessment of the lesson is thoughtful and includes specific indicators of effectiveness.
  • The teacher seeks regular opportunities for continued professional development, including initiating action research.

These are all things I can create! I am a creator at heart. Now that my curriculum is aligned, I'd like to write some nice unit plans. 3 out of 8 on my list have to do with plans.

I have provided student choice on assessments by giving them 6 questions and asking them to choose 5. What other ways can I give student choice?

I included the one about rich vocabulary because I am bad about breaking things down so much that I don't used academic vocabulary like I should- a student pointed that out in our semester reflections and I know she is right.

I was including some reflection questions on quizzes and tests thanks to @pamjwilson's suggestion. I need to do this consistently. I also need to remind students about shading their colored circles in their INB table of contents.

Sadly I just completed my post-observation assessment but I love the idea of 'specific indicators of effectiveness'. I need to think about that for each lesson- what do I want to achieve and how will I know if I achieved it? I think that also ties back to plans.

But the last one got me really excited- action research! I learned about it and did it during my master's program but never used it since. Once again, it's something I can create. I don't even know what to do but it sounds fun!

I already feel like this post is rambling but this is me explaining my brain.

I think what makes me a good teacher is that I am very observant and I think very logically. I want to enhance those traits in my students. I think Number Talks and WODB are great tools for that so I am committing to reading Number Talks books and researching it in depth during this year and this summer.

I also think I ask good questions and while I get better at it every year, I'm definitely not asking those higher order questions like synthesizing and application.

Shelly @druinok brought up a good book we read a while ago and so I dug it out.

I'm also committing to reading these throughout this semester and this summer. My goal is to come up with one good question a week for the rest of the school year. It can be for any content area and it might come word for word from one of these books but that's okay. My plan as of now is to maybe just add a slide at the end of a lesson with a 'challenge' question for students to discuss and maybe something like it will also show up on the study guide or as a bonus question on a test. The idea of asking questions and adding one here and there doesn't overwhelm me- even though making them up does. I know I have to start before I can get good so this is my plan.

For those of you who commented on NBCT, I'm applying for funding in February even though it scares the crap out of me. My state no longer has stipends and no one at my school has ever done this so....there's really no financial reward for so I don't see myself pursuing it if I don't get funding from somewhere. Thank you for thinking I can do it!

While this post might seem all over the place, it's better than how I was feeling two weeks ago and it went a long way as far as 'underwhelming' me. Also, I'm giving myself nine months to read two books so that I don't feel rushed and give up.

Anyone have idea for an action project? Formative assessment? Questioning? Vocabulary?

Anyone want to do it with me? :) :) :) :) :)


#DITL Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

6:00 Wake up and  get pretty.

7:42 Arrive at school and drop off my lunch in the home ec room so I won't have to walk all the way to the office. Head to my room to get my cooler and race to the cafeteria to fill it with ice and water. (Students aren't allowed to bring food or drinks so we provide water in our rooms.)

1st hour- We are finishing six problems on the right side of our INB about parallel and perpendicular slope. Students seem to be taking each problem in stride and doing well. Glad I already have the next activity prepared....although it takes the majority of the class period to finish those six problems. Now students get out dry erase markers to practice on the desk while we play a game of trashketball. Two problems later and the class is already over.

2nd hour- Students are finishing a handout from yesterday to prepare for a quiz over reciprocal functions. Everyone starts and finishes at different times and I wait for everyone to be finished before starting the next activity. We are making an almost-fortune-teller-cootie-catcher for our INB notes on quadrantal angles. Why does it take 8 upperclassmen 40 years to cut and fold a piece of paper? Even following my verbal directions, with the picture on the board, and my completed example, students still mess up and have to start over. Never give up teaching students to follow directions! We don't even have time to start writing in them before class ends. :(

3rd hour- Algebra I has a quiz today over finding intercepts and graphing horizontal and vertical lines. For practice, all I made was a boring worksheet of 12 problems. I remember an idea from someone's blog post about a buried treasure powerpoint game that I downloaded. Every slide has ships on them and students get to a click a ship to find the treasure. I tell students they get one click after I have checked each set of 4 problems. The winner gets a baby butterfinger. I spend the rest of the class period bouncing back and forth across the room to check answers- I don't even have time to print out an answer key. Students are HIGHLY engaged. As they finish, they start gathering around the board, waiting for the next person to click, in expectation of who might actually find the treasure. It's adorable. I stop the class and handout the quiz. I probably burned more calories traversing the room than I did all day.

4th hour- Almost scripted word for word...thanks for the dry run first hour. I have a class full of boys and basketball players who expect to be awesome at trashketball. It's a very humbling game. All students in each team have to agree on their answer so a lot of good discussion is happening. We also get done with only two problems. Crazy how consistent(ly slow) I can be.

5th hour- Students are finishing a quiz while I make an answer key for the study guide they are about to take. I cleaned out a binder last week that I thought I didn't need so there went a few answer keys. The last page I'm getting all wrong answers but students are starting the study guide and need my help while I'm feeling anxious about the last page. Luckily, nobody gets that far by the end of the class period.

Lunch- The bell rings at 12:10 which means I get down to my food around 12:15 and then have to be back in my classroom and ready to go by 12:30. The healthy lunch plans are  joke at our school and the teachers are having a fit over what is served while I eat the leftovers my mom saved for me. I've been trying to convince these people for two years to just bring their lunch every day...

6th hour-My rowdiest class is finishing the quadratic formula and are taking a quiz today. I put one problem on the board for them to review first. As I'm walking around, the levels range between not knowing the first step, not knowing which numbers are a. b. and c and students who finish the whole problem independently. After the quiz it's time to start the dreaded........word problems!!!!!! It takes forever for students to fold two pieces of paper in half and tape them in their notebook. I give a lecture about how these problems are hard, now is the time to focus, stop playing and distracting others....We finish one problem and class is over.

7th hour- My class of five is taking a quiz over simplifying rational expressions. We just finished trig identities so I feel like this is going to be a piece of cake. By the time we finish reviewing so that they feel prepared, there is only 15 minutes left of class. There are 6 problems and only 1 actually complete the quiz. To be continued. Literally.

8th hour- It's my plan period but I have to sub. I bring the class to my room since no plans were left and they play on chrome books and talk while I grade papers and get things ready to copy.

3:20 It's time for cheerleading practice. There is also an after school BETA club meeting to prepare for state competitions in March. Since my whole squad is in BETA club, we split up time between the two. I'm excited that I will get to go home early.

4:00 Practice is over and I have more papers to grade and copies to make so I don't have to take anything home.

5:15 I guess I won't be going home early...

6:00-10:00 I need to make an answer key but I messed up on it so many times already that I'm too tired and unmotivated to do it. I dread it all night and end up not doing it. I finished walking to get my 12,000+ steps in, I pack my school bag for the next day, and do some scripture journaling.

11:00 I decide to go to bed 'early.'

1) Teachers make a lot of decisions throughout the day. Sometimes we make so many it feels overwhelming. When you think about today, what is a decision/teacher move you made that you are proud of? What is one you are worried wasn’t ideal?

Every day I am worried that my pacing is so far from ideal but I balance in the tension between pacing and giving my students enough time to process and practice. When some students tell me I move too fast, I almost cry with frustration. I'm on unit 3 or 4 in every class with anywhere from 10-12 units on my pacing guide. I'm lucky to do 6 units all year long.

I am proud of how often I ask students to tell me what is different about each new problem and how often I ask them to explain why and how.

2) Every person’s life is full of highs and lows. Share with us some of what that is like for a teacher. What are you looking forward to? What has been a challenge for you lately? 

I'm looking forward to my three day weekend and my upcoming Unit Circle project in trig. Even though we've just had a two week Christmas Break I'm praying for a snow day on Friday so I can have a four day weekend.

A challenge for me lately has been trying to decide a focus for growth this year. I am feeling pretty basic and like I'm at the peak of my math abilities. I want to work on the things that have the most impact on student learning, but how do I decide what those are?

3) We are reminded constantly of how relational teaching is. As teachers we work to build relationships with our coworkers and students. Describe a relational moment you had with someone recently.

 I heard a girl in the hallway call another girl a fat b*****. A few minutes later she came to return my pencil and I pulled her aside and told her I heard her. I told her that as a female, we should never call other female's that word since so many men already do. She nodded and went in the room. That may not be my best response but it was off the top of my head. She walked out and said, "Ms. Miller I am really sorry." That was a moment we wouldn't normally have shared.

Overall, I am having some really funny and interesting conversations with almost every class on a regular basis. We have inside jokes and favorite memes and I just feel really open and close with the majority of the students.

4) Teachers are always working on improving, and often have specific goals for things to work on throughout a year. What is a goal you have for the year?

Reread More Good Questions and work on questioning skills, make answers keys beforehand, continue my work life balance, and blog more often!


2016 Reflection

This has been one of the best years of my life so I couldn't wait to share some highlights!

January- I started using my new curriculum and felt like I could breathe for the first time in eight years! I also started using a bullet journal which is so pretty and fun!

February- Went to a Google Appa conference that was productive

March- A blog post of mine was published in our first ever MTBos book

May- I completed my first ever 30 posts in 30 days for #MTBoS30 and to top it off celebrated my 30th birthday in St. Louis

June- I canoed for the first time and zip lined for the second time. I got new teeth!

July- I went to Minneapolis Minnesota for the first time to attend my fourth Twitter Math Camp

August- I lost 50 pounds in one year thanks to my Fitbit and walking. I also started writing posts for the Day in the Life series.

September- My grandma came to visit; my uncle fixed the power in my basement and built me a beautiful hall tree

October- I surpassed my all time best of 109 blog posts in one year! This makes post 114.

November- I got a new phone

December- I had one of the best end of the semesters, Christmas break, and Christmas's ever!

And now some ideas for 2017...

A bad habit I'm going to break: crossing my arms when I walk around the class

A new skill I'd like to learn: an instructional routine to use

A person I hope to be more like: Rebecka Peterson

A good deed I'm going to do: send home happy notes or postcards to parents

A book I'd like to read: Making Number Talks Matter

A letter I'm going to write: individual letters to my seniors

I'm going to do better at: getting to school earlier

My students wrote to me that my classroom is colorful and welcoming, they look forward to my class, they like math now, I've helped them be more organized, I explain things in a way they can understand easily, they know that I care about them and their lives, and they enjoy being around me.

Good-bye 2016! 👋🏻