Sunday, September 16, 2012

ISN Organization

#msSunFunI tell the students from day one that I don't like to waste time. On the first day of school I show them an almost empty bottle of shampoo and a nearly empty jar of peanut butter and I ask them to guess what that means about me, especially in math class. Someone usually raises their hand and says "You don't like to waste time," but I have gotten some other interesting and creative responses! On the first day of school we practice passing out papers along the rows, a la Harry Wong. We also practice passing papers back in and moving the desks to get into their "pods" for group work. I read a post during the summer which had a photo of how desks are arranged for group work. I thought the configuration was brilliant because students only have to turn the two front desks to face each other and not the back two desks. It also creates a u-shaped group which allows all the students in the group to see the teacher and board easier when instructions are given to the whole class.

I started using math journals in my classes several years ago and with all the great ideas I have gotten from math teacher blogs, the journals have been morphing into interactive notebooks. I am so excited to try foldables this year and other note taking activities. This year I am encouraging my advanced students to take their journals home every day to study and review what we covered in class. In my general classes, I allow the students to leave their journals in the classroom. I laminated some 2-sided signs for math journals, calculators and responders indicating to the students, as they walk in the door, whether they should get these items before they go to their seat. For example, one side says Math Journals Today and the other side says No Math Journals Today. I just flip it over as needed for each class. 

One thing that I have liked about math journals that stay in class is that students always have something to take notes and do practice problems in no matter what their binder looks like. But keeping the journals in the classroom presents other challenges--getting them out and putting them away every day can be time consuming and chaotic. In order to make this classroom procedure efficient, I designate a place in the classroom for each class period so that the journals are easily accessible and available to every student every day. On the left is a picture of the journals for one class period before I labeled them. On the right is a photo of the journals after I labeled them. I write the class period, color-coded, on the left and then write the last name of each student in black sharpie (I covered the names of my students with a piece of paper). This helps each student find their journal quickly and easily as they come into class and it helps me find and relocate any journals that are returned to the wrong pile.


  1. Yes, brilliant! I love your visual representation (peanut butter jar) of your affinity for efficiency and distaste for waste. It must be very relaxing for your students to walk into class and to know so clearly with no words what you immediately expect them to do.