Carl's Teaching Blog

A place to talk about teaching and learning

Tag: MTBoS30 (Page 3 of 6)

Grocery Store Takedown

In my last class I focused a lot on proportional reasoning, and at the end of March I wanted to give the kids a project that would be rich with a lot of different examples of the topic.  My original idea was to do a theme based on turning a beat into a song, but it seemed contrived.  Frustrated, I headed down the street to the only empty grocery store, and thought about how all the prices there were really high.  Suddenly a flash of insight hit.

The students can take down their expensive local grocery store!

Kids can imagine a product that they like to sell, and then look up how much cheaper it would be at a warehouse store, and compare the difference in prices.  Then students can use evidence from their local store to estimate how much money they would make from a day of selling the products, and then scale what the products would make over a month.  I went back home and scribbled a bunch of notes about the idea with a Doc-Brown-Esque level of enthusiasm, but I didn’t really put together a polished task until last week.

Download (PDF, 939KB)

Here is what I gave kids, although I really wish I could have made it better.

What I like about it:

  • It is a pretty straightforward task whose end goal makes enough students that all students can really understand what their end product should mean.
  • Students need to use proportional reasoning in so many different places that there are countless numbers of places to discuss it.
  • Since all students can do different products at different stores, the entire class can come up with different project results so there is no copying fear.

What I wonder about:

  • As a project to help kids express their proportional reasoning, should I have asked them to explicitly demonstrate two or three different ways of finding a number that would proportional to some other set of numbers?  If so, which ways should they all HAVE to know how to do?
  • How could this be better?

IF you can give me any feedback about the project, I’d appreciate it if you mentioned it by commenting on the google doc of this here.


Kimmy Schmidt and some assumptions about teaching

In an episode of the new Netflix comedy “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” there were a number of jokes about public education as the lead character goes to school. It seemed like a good idea to blog about this at the time, largely because it was 11:42 at night and I hadn’t yet made a blog post.

Without wanting to provide too many spoilers, Kimmy hasn’t been to school since the eight grade after being forced to live in a hole for 15 years. Now that she is out, she has decided to go back and get education which leads her to a GED program that she begins work on in the episode “Kimmy goes to school.” Through the shoe she goes to school and finds out that her teacher is terrible and has kids watch the movie “Major League” on VHS as a lesson plan. You should watch it if you get a chance.

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9 reasons to get excited about #MTBoS30

Now that March Madness is over* I am more than excited to get into the April #MTBoS30 challenge.

Are you also late to the party, or sitting outside deciding if you want to jump in? Maybe a list of the 9 reasons that I am excited about a fresh 30 blog posts for this April/May.

1. The Memories

Last year I participated in an #MTBoS30 and really appreciate the fine-grained snapshot of my classroom at that time. In retrospect, looking at those posts were really interesting to see a clear picture of what happened in my classroom at that time.

2. The Reflection

It is also obvious that the act of writing forced me to do slightly more thinking about what I wanted to improve on in the classroom. It’s amazing what growth can come out of asking yourself “What about today is worth writing about?” for a month!

3. Don’t want to write after school? Write in the morning!

Morning writing is a regular practice among artists, writers, and other creative people too. WHy not apply the same approach to your work in the classroom. One approach you could take might be to write first thing in the morning. These “Morning Pages” are really popular among a number of creative people, as the act of writing early each day actually frees the mind for more creativity.

4. Write without fear

Throughout the 30 days of my writing there was always a warm reception for my posts. The blogosphere is a wonderful place to talk about teaching, and good ideas are always welcome. I personally feel more comfortable sharing my ideas online than I than with some of the teachers at my school.

5. Benefit from new ideas

As you talk through ideas with new people you may find times that people challenge your thinking. This can help you think about new ideas, or old ideas in new ways.

6. Share your ideas with others

The act of writing each of your posts is certainly valuable, but also valuable are the insights gained from reading and commenting on other people’s posts. Engaging with other posts are a good way to help people other people benefit from your experience and give you some inspiration on days where the words don’t come as quickly.

7. Do what you can, with what you have

If you’re still on the fence, perhaps you are worried about having enough ideas to make it the distance. In looking at my posts from last year I realize that I didn’t “get it done” each day and sometimes wrote two posts the next day. Some posts will be more detailed than others, and that’s ok.


Trying something new this year? WRITE ABOUT IT! Seeing an interesting trend of misconceptions while grading your last quiz? WRITE ABOUT IT! Funny anecdote when you were up at the board? WRITE ABOUT IT! Want to cheer on Duke in the final four? Not cool, too soon. Too soon.

9. Teachers have the best stories

Have you ever been at a party where you are talking about your day with some stranger and they are completely engrossed? That is because teaching involves so many truly human interactions that even mundane daily activity can sound like riveting drama compared to making TPS reports in a cubicle. Because of this, going in detail about an interaction is often a good idea for a post, even if it just another day on the job.

*March Madness is over whenever the Michigan State Spartans lose


This Week: Getting Out Of The Hole, Finishing Projects, And Teacher Self-Confidence

You might be thinking, “It seems strange to be figuring out new productivity systems with only 10 teaching days left to go, no?”.  In the past week I’ve been trying to come up with a new strategy to get more productive, and writing about it has led me to adopt some new strategies.  My plan is to come up with a theme for the week, and then base my plan around that.  I can never keep all of the things in my head, and I would find ways to get distracted from doing what’s on my to do list.  After reading some ideas from the slightly overwhelming Getting Results the Agile Way, I’ve modified my current Evernote system.  Each week I try to make a encompassing story for my week, a central theme of what I want to accomplish. For example, this week the story is  “dig myself from out of the hole” I’ve written it down and changed the background image on my phone to match.  Now there are a lot of “to-do’s” associated with this “story”, but I can’t remember all of those.  However when I have a few free moments at school and I see the picture of digging myself out of the hole on my phone I am more likely to go and look up something to free myself from all the backlog when I otherwise would be looking at reddit or something.   I also made a notebook for doing a “Brain Dump“, so I can empty my head at the end of each day.

What I’m teaching this week

This week I plan to get my classes finished with their projects.  I’ve been tweaking projects from previous years to end this year, and I may need to come up with some scaffolding or mini-lessons in response to student’s struggles, and I am going to try harder to give students written feedback along the way.  In the spirit of this week’s theme, I’m going to stick to the due date and make sure I provide a lot of support to get the kids, and myself, out of this “hole”. Because most of the students have big final projects in all of their classes, this time of year is very stressful, so I need to spend a lot of time just letting kids know that I hear their struggle, but that they can still do a project at a high level.

What I’m blogging this week

Keeping with the theme of getting out of the hole, I am going to read more and post a summary.  I have been saying I was going to do it for the past few weeks, and I need to sit down and go through my feed reader.  I may also put up one of the projects that I assigned this year.

What I’m thinking this week

Is there some correlation between teaching and low self-confidence?  As a starting teacher it always felt like there was something I could improve,  but always focusing on improvement means I’m always focusing on the things I do wrong.    The idea of constantly being flawed led me to walk out from most classes looking at the things that went wrong or were not well done. Often I would even fret over things that were out of my control, like how I handled the fire drill.  As I got more experience I kept this negative focus on my work as a teacher.  Much like Mal in the movie inception, I could never really view my successes in the classroom as real (I even struggled to not write “successes”).  Perhaps the hole I need to get out of is the mental one.

I could probably write a much longer blog post about this.  Are there other people who feel this way?

Automate The Web With ‘If This Then That’

There is a rule in computer programming called DRY, “Don’t repeat yourself”.  Why should you do anything a computer can do easily?  To avoid doing repetitive tasks on the internet you can use the free online automation service If This Then That (IFTTT) to make technology start pulling more of the weight.

What is IFTTT?

In an age where new web companies need pronunciation guides, If This Then That’s name is refreshingly useful.  IFTTT lets you take things on the internet and say “If this trigger happens, then I want you to do that action”.
A trigger is an event on one of your services across the web.  Triggers could be a new email arriving in your Gmail or you making a new tweet as a favorite on Twitter.  You can tell IFTTT to have an action after each trigger. Some actions are make a new note in Evernote or add a new line to a Google spreadsheet.  When you match a trigger with an action you’ve created what IFTTT calls a recipe, and your saved for you to turn them on and off (if you want set up recipes for summer vacation for instance). Each recipe may have a chance for you to customize ingredients, or specific elements. For example, if you are sending a message to everyone who follows you on twitter, you could include that person’s twitter handle in your message by placing that ingredient in the space of the message.  It say’s something like: “Thanks for following me, {{UserName}}.”

Curb your enthusiasm

Excited???  Not to be a Debbier Downer, but the automation is not going to do everything.  IFTTT will only take one trigger and map it to one new action, so you can’t easily chain together a bunch of things.  It can’t save something to Evernote and send a Gmail at the same, you’ll need to chain to recipes to do that.   Once you set it up it will only do it when that trigger fires in the future, so if you want all your tweets saved to Evernote, you will have to move your old tweets over yourself (which you can do with the EN webclipper).

Get started

1. Create an account and activate channels. Go to IFTTT and make an account, then go to ‘Channels’ and activate the services you want to connect. Twitter, Gmail, WordPress, and Evernote are a good set of starters.

2. Get a recipe.  Once things are activated, you can search through existing recipes for ideas, or make your own.  In each recipe you may want to scroll down and see if you can make any changes.  If you are saving to Evernote, you can customize which notebook it goes to, and add information into the text of the note itself.

3. Turn it on and relax!

Make it work for you

There are literally dozens of articles about recipes so you can get ideas.  IFTTT keeps adding new services, like is automating tasks on iphones/ipads and android devices, so you may want to follow them on the IFTTT blog.


If you end up using this for teaching or anything please share it in the comments.


P.S.  If you like IFTTT you may like Zapier, but I don’t know enough about it yet to comment on it, but it seems to allow only a limited amount of usage before having to buy one of 3 paid plans.

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