Saturday, 30 January 2016

Integers, Integers and More Integers!


This week we have been working on integers. In my experience, this is a difficult for some students to understand. I take my time with practising it, reviewing in and building deeper thinking with it. 

Here are some anchor charts
order of operations and integers
Order of Operations and Integers

Multiplying Integers
Multiplying Integers

This lead us to this week's lesson. Which was a "showing what you know" lesson. This turned out amazing! 

Just look at them hard at work here. 
Integer practice
Differentiated Integer Practise

All of this thinking was amazing!

Students working in partners, on white boards, on phones, iPods, chrome books, pencil and paper and finally desktops.

This ended up reaching all learners as the students could choose friendly numbers that they feel comfortable with and still show their thinking. 

Here is a copy of the "Special Integer" task if you would like it for your own classroom. I will post some finished work to see what they created!

order of operations
My Special Integer: Free Download!
Click on the Picture or the link above.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

One Word for the Year

A New Year is a New Word

I have been thinking. 

I have been reflecting. 

I have been pondering about my 

It has taken five days to finally develop a word that I think sums up my goal for the year of 2016. 


What do I want to reclaim? 

1. I want to reclaim my time. I feel as though I have gained a better home, work and life balance but there are many days I find myself asking, "Where did the time go today?". 

2. I want to reclaim moments with my students. I want to be more mindful of the moment that is occurring right at the moment it is happening. To often I have let my mind wander to next period, next lesson, next step for the student and
 Be present.

3. I want to reclaim my blog. I feel like the past few months I haven't blogged or my purpose has been unclear. I want to reclaim the purpose. I want to reclaim the mission. 

4. I want to reclaim "sharing". I feel as though I have not shared via Twitter, blog or resources with my teaching parter (or my readers of this blog) as much as I would like. 

What is your #OneWord2016?

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Do you teach?

Your words have echoed through my mind for several weeks now. It has been hard to shake. It has put many of my lessons into question and prevented me from blogging. (Link to original post here)

My team teachers have heard me mention it a few times many times.  It has been the subject of my jokes for weeks. For example, I joked that for Halloween I wanted to be a teacher.
Clip art from

It has haunted me from the inside out. I have finally come to the realisation that it was not just my job you were questioning but who I am. 

I teach

I do teach.
I spend countless hours researching, reading and finding ways to educate, captivate and reach teens.
I have given time from my own family to give to my students.
I have had arguments with my spouse over time spent in the classroom, educational sites (Twitter, Pinterest), and in my home office.
I have spent my own dollars on classroom decor, books, and materials.
I rarely eat a full lunch in the staff room as I can be found snacking while I am marking, coaching or gathering materials for the next lesson.
I reflect on new ways to improve lessons for the next day, next unit or next month.
I plan trips based on the needs and desires of not only the curriculum but the interests of my students.
I think about my classroom, my students and my lessons on the weekend, the breaks and in the summer.
Teaching is always part of my day.
Every day.

When I really think about it, it is hard to separate the teacher from the mother, the wife, the friend and from the core of who I am.

I am a teacher.

I am me.

The answer to your question is more than a simple yes, because I am more than a teacher.

What I do can not be separated from who I am

A teacher from the inside out. 
Now and forever.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Dear Mom with Math Concerns

Dear Mom with MATH Concerns,

I saw your hesitation as you entered my classroom with a few concerns about your child in my classroom. You glanced around the room and smiled and asked if you could be frank. You have math concerns. This math is a challenge and you feel your son is not quite understanding. I heard the wonder in your voice as you questioned the cutting and pasting in math lessons. Is this the new math you have been hearing about was the question on your mind.  Is there a purpose to why he does not use the textbook as often as your older children did when they were in grade eight.Was I sure that using pen in mathematics is the way to go? Are you actually teaching him or letting him learn off the internet?

You are not alone. Your questions and concerns are valid. Excuse my blushing checks as sometimes I forget that this is not the math class you were used to as a student yourself. Let me explain to you and to all of the other people who are concerned about why math has changed.

Dear mom with MATH CONCERNS,

Remember when you were a child sitting in rows with a textbook, notebook, pencil and the excitement of learning math ?Please stop your laughter now as you tell me about how you did not really get math. Your feeling of not getting math, was a similar feeling to many. 

Math in my classroom looks different primarily for that reason. I do not want students to hate math. I know that not every student will be a convert but I am going to try. This is considered the NEW math.  Math that looks, feels and sounds different.

I encourage pen. It is a radical idea for many. The reason I encourage students to use pen in my classroom is that I want to see their thinking. In my very humble experience students tend to erase work that they think is not valid or relevant to the problem. I want to encourage the thoughts to stay. Pen prevents the erasing. This is new to many people who are used to just writing the answer right away. The thinking is part of our curriculum and it is a better tool to help me as your child's teacher see where your child may be stumbling in their mind. It can be incredibly frustrating to always have the wrong answer, and showing thinking helps the student and myself see the area of growth and areas for new learning.

I encourage different colours. Math is not black and white. I was taught it was. There is only one way to find an answer. An algorithm, a trick, a carry a one here and cross this off there. Math is not. Math is a puzzle and there are many different ways to put the puzzle together. Colour can help separate math thoughts and connect them at the same time. That is why when you look at your child's notes you will see I have encouraged different colours(pens, pencil crayons and stickers).

I encourage interactive notes. You will see different coloured paper glued in that is not a worksheet. This helps give some tactile learning to the note taking process. Creating a pattern with stickers for example that has a constant and a multiplier connects the learner to the example in a more tangible way. Sure, they could draw a pattern with pen but using shiny stickers somehow makes that more fun. It also helps build more connections in your child's mind to the learning. Here is an example here.

I encourage cheesy math videos. I do this as sometimes the song or the wording with the music helps. Often at the end of the day the students will tell me they still have the math song in their head from the morning. (Yes! Thinking of math later in another subject without my direction)
Here is one that we used to review quadrilaterals:

I encourage problems with partners. Students learn from each other just as much as they learn from me. Hearing their buddy talk about math and bounce ideas off each other helps them see math from another point of view. 

I know your child is in the intermediate years and we are cutting and pasting. This seems too young for them and other children are not doing it. Especially in high school! I know. Your worried that your child is not getting the education they need. The cutting and pasting is a good sorting activity. To sort out the different types of angles, for example, gives them a more tactile way of learning. I am not looking at how neat it is but at the process of it.

I believe in students seeking out answers. Your child lives in a world where I am not the end all of information. If they forget what the Pythagorean Theorem is they do not need to wait to come to school to ask me, they can search it up with their own personal device. For that reason, there are times when I have asked your child to search something even in math and look at it with a critical eye. Is the information valid? Does it make sense? I am not-not teaching you child, I am trying to help them navigate through the plethora of information that is available to them every minute of every day right in their pocket. It can be overwhelming, I know. It can also be the most valuable resource to them if they are able to practise with it in a positive way.

I believe in gaming. Students can play games with each other in the classroom or sometimes on line. With programs and apps like Prodigy and Dream Box your child can practise at their own pace. No more forgotten worksheets as it is right there all the time. They are still kids after all and we all know the value and importance of how kids learn through play. In a kindergarten classroom it may be a water table, in my grade eight classroom it might be a memory game with new math terminology or playing Prodigy at home for a homework task.

I believe in movement. Students are moving around the room to find the next station card, we are are using our arms to form angles or we are building human graphs. For some students this is the ah-ha moment they need through movement and for some it is a fun way to reinforce the math topics in a more relaxed pace. I mean really, doesn't  "Dance Dance Transversal" sound so much more fun then,"finish questions 1 though 31 on page 292 of your text book".

I believe in questions! I do not see the validity of answering a hundred questions of similar wording to practice the concept. I believe in the experience of having students question why. This is why at times I do not give all of the answers away, or teach the topic first. Allowing the child to question gives them a chance to think about the math, interact with it. It changes from them being the factory math workers, answering repetitive math questions into math creators, inventors and experimenters. 

I know this is new. I know this is not how your were taught math. I also know that the unknown can be terrifying. 

Just know that I do this all out of the love of learning and reaching students in different ways. This might just give your child a chance to feel that math can be fun. I am not promising that there will not be difficult times. In fact there will be. I will promise to be there for you and for you child to ask questions and seek answers together. I promise to give your child a math experience that actually is an experience. 


Mrs Verwey ( and all the other teachers out there who are trying the NEW math) 

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Literacy Program in my Classroom

Literacy Program in my Classroom

With teaching 8th grade, the number one question that I have been asked is:

How do you run your literacy program

Teaching language to teenagers runs into several problems.

1. It can not be too cutesy. That is teacher lesson suicide. If the teens do not buy in, then it will flop.
2. I need to incorporate technology and yet, I am not a one to one device school. Limited resources and a roomful of students.
3. I want to meet with each student. My own personal goal is to meet with every student, every day. Even if it is just for a few minutes.
4. Teens need independence and choice. ABSOLUTELY. 

Okay....those were my challenges. I started off with my goal in mind. I posted it right on my bulletin board for the students to see so that they know I WANT to meet with them. A mini lesson together and it is my goal and my own personal desire. 

Here is what I have developed to manage my literacy block. (P.S. This is a 100 min. block which I also need to incorporate some science due to my schedule this year.)

Students are put into teams. The teams are mixed ability, behaviour abilities and friendship groups.
There is a rotation schedule that is up for everyone to see. 
The rotation does not change.

Explain your thought please.......

I have a rotation that does not change. Then it is clear no matter what happens to our school schedule, special days, holidays or P.D. days what is happening that day. Students just look to what day of the week it is and that is their first rotation.

Example: Team Three on Wednesday would start at station six which would be At The Teacher Table.

The rotation schedule does not change but the teams do. Each student has a mini copy of this in their notebooks as well as it is posted on the bulletin board.

Stations: There are 8 Stations 

Station One: Large Group
 Everyone is together for a read aloud, mini lesson on writing, oral sharing activity etc. 

Station Two:  Independent Reading.
Students read in the classroom library with a book of their choice.

Station Three: Thinking with a Text
Students reading at their desks with a book of their choice.

Station Four: Explain your thoughts.
Students write a minimum half page letter weekly to me about their reading thoughts. Students have a chance to use a thinking stem page to help them kick start their sentences if they are stuck. 

Station Five: Writing

Students could be working on an assigned writing task or free write. 

Station Six: At the Teacher Table

Students meet with me at the back table. Here we share reading, guided reading and questions. I am trying to connect this to our read aloud with non-fiction pieces of text. 

Station Seven and Eight are both: CHOICE 

Students choose off a list of activities to do that is provided to them at the start of the week. I post the list in my google classroom (one to save paper and two for students to be able to access it at any time). Some of the activities are due at the end of the week while others are a work in progress. 

Under each sign is a mini actor chart of what each station looks like and sounds like. This is there for the students but as well for supply teachers who come in the room so they know what is happening explicitly. 

10 minutes per station with a minute to move to the next one. 
In the bigger picture it works out to twenty minutes of reading and twenty minutes of writing. Twenty minutes of choice activities and ten minutes with me as a small group.  The rest of the time is large group.  

To my surprise, the teens are loving this! 
They ask for stations!
Why do they love it:
1. Choice. I am not telling them what to do on what day. They choose. They know what is due and they can choose what to work on that day.

2. Technology is used at their choice or decision. They do not have to type their stories, they can hand write it for example. Students love the choice.

3. Meet the teacher.
Believe it or not, teenagers like to meet with the teacher too.

4. Music is allowed for some of the stations. (headphones are necessary and one ear bud out is what I ask so they can hear emergencies or a teacher speaking to them)

Why I love it:
1. I see students! Every day!
2. I hear their thoughts when I am not there. Weekly reading response letters are a bit of a chore to read and respond back to, but it is absolutely worth it. 
3. On task at their own pace.

Problems and Kinks

Oh yes. Of course! No program is perfect. I have had some challenges:
1. Students who at the end of the week have done nothing
2. Students who wander around the room.
3. Students who hoard technology.

I will share next week how I problem solve some of these problems.

Here are the posters if you would like to have them in your own classroom. 

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Thank you!

Thank you for the chair! 

Yes, you read that right. Someone provided our classroom with an extra chair.
 There was a mysterious package waiting for me. 
I know I didn't order anything. I immediately thought-surprise gift from the handsome husband. 

As I open the box, to my surprise there was another chair! 
When my husband told me that it was not him. I was baffled. I called Walmart and they verified that the chair was to come to me. 
I brought it to school. I told the students about it and they were thrilled. They love the chair! 

To whoever bought me the chair for my classroom and wishes to remain anonymous, I thank you. 

Thank you! 

Monday, 28 September 2015

Linear Patterns Anchor Charts

Linear Patterns

I enjoy teaching linear patterns to my students. One goal for this math unit for myself as a teacher over the past few weeks was the anchor charts. At times we  have been so busy learning that I forget to document our learning. 

These are two of the anchor charts that we built together in class.

Stickers are fun! 

My goals for anchor charts are:

1) Colourful/pictures
2)Purposeful-not there just for the sake of being there
3)In language that students understand 

Friday, 4 September 2015

Middle School Classroom Decor Revealed

Classroom Decor Revealed

I have been working so hard this past few weeks during summer. ( Ahem you are a teacher, you don't work in the summer.) I am excited to show you finally what it looks like. 

Lets remember before pictures:

I only had a few concerns from this view of the classroom. The computer table set up like that is creating a problem for students walking in front of the room. Also, just not my style to be sitting and facing the students. Teacher desk is tucked away in the back corner. My other issue is that there is a teacher desk. I gave up having a teacher desk about six years ago. That is conversation for another blog post. 

From this angle you can see some bigger issues. 

1. Look at that teacher desk. It is L shaped so it is monstrous. 
2. The background papers and borders are inconsistent and not really age appropriate. You can't tell from the picture but there are teddy bears on the top left bulletin board. 
3. Look at the math manipulative storage bins. Needs an update. 

Okay: Here she is!
The big reveal and I am so excited about it. 
From the back corner.

From the doorway
Math Manipulatives bins got an update. (most are empty-more manipulative needed). Kids can stand to work here as well. Perfect height for that. 

Class up the desk tops

This is my teacher area. No more desk! Just shelves and the counter. Perfect.

My guided reading/small group area.
Meet with the teacher.

This is the back wall. Counters are clear.
It is tiny so you can't really see but there are 30 clips on the wall. Enough for each student to hang what they choose to put on display.

Believe in Yourself Bulleting
Love your #Selfie
This is a first week activity that we will be doing together and adding a word to describe ourselves around the mirror. My word is going to be:

Reading nook
Middle School Library/ Reading Nook

My focus wall
Up close view of the soon to be anchor charts and our overall goals.

cooperative group space
Small group learning area

I think I have hit all my goals for my new classroom set up.


1. Small group learning area with out teacher (check)
2. Guided reading area for big kids (check)
3. Get rid of the enormous teacher desk (check)
4. Have a library/ cozy place to read (check)
5. Bulletin boards painted and boarders all are matching. Consistent to help with self-regulation. (check)
6. Bulletin boards are still empty waiting for students to leave their personality in the room. (check)


A friend of mine who is not a teacher this summer was surprised to find out that we as teachers are responsible for our own decorations. Here is the added costs that went into this room this summer out of my own pocket. Just for the room not anything regarding teaching.(yet)

1. Stools - 4 X $5.95
2. Paint- 1 gallon $40
3. Clips, staples, push pins, sticky tack, masking tape: $12
4. Spray paint: 2 cans of black and one can of white: $21
5. Mat in library: $10 giant tiger
6. zebra Chair: $34 (Walmart) 
7. Pong chair from Ikea (found on Kijii): $15
8. Camping Chairs: 2 for $12

Total: $167.80 (The sad thing is I am forgetting things.)

Would have been more money if I didn't have/find the following.

1. Frames were left over from my wedding.
2. Lamps were found on the side of the road from a neighbour who was moving and I spray painted them. Thanks Bob.
3. All the bulletin trim for around the room I had brought with me from my last school.
4. The hanging black and white decorations I had purchased in January.
5. The small table in the reading area was from our house. The last piece of my husband's university decor.
6. Mirror was also from my house.
7. The hanging mobile in the first picture (so tiny but there near the teacher's area) is a parting gift from my colleagues at my last school. A little bit of them with me at all times. 
8. Plant (which is sad looking and I hope to revive it) was left behind from the previous tenant of this classroom. Thank you for adding some fresh air to my room.

Wish list as the year moves forward:

1. Another Zebra chair.
2. A few more tiny plants for around the room. Bring in more nature.

Well, what do you think? Thoughts? I would love to hear them. 

Sunday, 30 August 2015

What is your EdMotto?

What is your EDMOTTO?

At the start of 2015 I thought about my One Word. The word that would push me and help me maintain my focus, give me direction and an inspiration.

As I am about to start a new school year with new students, I have been reflecting on my one word. The word doesn't quite fit with my thoughts of the new year. I can't choose one word for this school year. Instead-a phrase has emerged. 

My EdMotto!

I have an inspiration to see every child, every day at small groups in my literacy class. I am planning on trying something new to ensure that I have smaller groups to make sure that happens daily. I am excited to try it! 

What is your #EdMotto for the year? 
What is your motto for your classroom for this year?

Share with us!

Monday, 10 August 2015

Let the decor begin!

Classroom Decor Beginnings 

Before Pictures

Today was the second day that I have been into my classroom this summer. As you, my readers know, I have switched schools so it means setting up my classroom again.

Here are some before pictures. 

This is a picture from standing at my entrance way.

This is a picture of the doorway.

This is a picture of the front/computer area.

I will not show you everything now, as I will do the big reveal when it is all finished.  Until then, here is a little teaser of two bulletin boards that I put up along the top. These boards will stay for the year as I don't want to have to take the ladder out.

I love both of these ideas. They are not originally mine. All the credit was from Math=Love Blog. She has created some pdf printable that you can use as well.

middle school bulletin board

I modified this one and removed the quiz ones. I don't always quiz for every subject so I tried to make it more accessible to all subjects. I just need to add a title: The Learning Path! 

middle school bulletin board

Check out her original blog post here for the Truth Signs.  (Thank you! Thank you! @mathequalslove for the pdfs! )

This year I actually hope to have an actual library area. I have space for it! Woot! Woot! 
Space designated for classroom library

I need / want:

1) some comfy seats for teens (ex. bean bag chairs )
2) an area rug. I was thinking an indoor/out door because then I can hose it down if it needs to be. 
3) Small table
4) Lamp

That is a lot of moola for me to spend on my classroom. If you happen to have any of the above items kicking around your house that you would like to donate: feel free. Donations are always accepted. 

Has anyone else been in their room too? What new changes will you be making to your room this year?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...