S.E.L. Dice

In the fall of 2019, as part of a regular professional development day in October my district had someone come in and work with us on Social Emotional Learning Standards. We participated in activities, collaborated and I left feeling ready to come up with some ways to more intentionally teach and reinforce social emotional learning in my classroom.


I spent the weekend reading through the materials and came up with an idea of S.E.L. dice. I found a template and printed it out on 6 different colors of thick colored paper, put the activities I thought I could manage on them and printed up a key for myself. Each table bin in my 8th grade classroom got a single die and we used them regularly. My original project is linked below. The GREAT things about it.

  1. No student ever crumpled or squashed one of my fragile dice. That meant so much to me that they cared for their table bins so well.
  2. It was right in front of us all the time so we used them a lot.
  3. Even though I didn’t have it set up in a way that we could just roll and use anything because of prep needed, the kids really liked being asked to pic a die. I’d say, “table group with the pink one pull out your die.” And then I’d ask them to turn to #3.

One Word Whip Around

I really wasn’t sure how it would go with the class. Some of the activities really require kids to put themselves out there. Others put me on the spot in the moment for my teaching. When we did the activity, “One Word Whip Around” as a faculty in our training we were asked to share our one word reflection from the lesson literally everyone was polite. There were a couple of words you could read into and think, “this person really didn’t enjoy this” but you had to know a backstory to even guess.

I wondered how this activity would go in grade 8? I was really afraid to try it as we stood in a circle on our first go round in Algebra at the end of a class. Kids started sharing words that summarized a takeaway from that day’s activity: Awesome! Fun! Meh. BORING. Cool. The range was there. I felt my face turn red as I heard Meh and Boring. I smiled when I heard Awesome. I realized it wasn’t always the kids that I though enjoyed the lesson that did. Some kids I thought were totally checked out had the most energetic takeaways. After the activity we felt closer – more connected.

Summer PD

I shared this with my principal, guidance counselor, grade 8 team and finally my math department. I asked my department if anyone wanted to collaborate with me to make it better. YES! Courtney was interested in developing this further as a summer professional development project. I had really just thrown my dice together and there was opportunity for more deliberate materials. We put in for a summer project. Then COVID hit and stayed we realized we needed this to be more digital than we had planned. This project was one of many pivots for the year.

The finished project

Our project is a Google Slides presentation that you can use in the classroom or virtually. You can use real dice or you can use the dice site we linked to in the program. You can use it as is or you can take it as a launching off pad! If you do the latter and make great improvements, I’d love for you to share it back with me so I can post it here as another option.

Some of our ideas we LOVE and some were our last attempts to finish in our 3 hours of work we were allotted (as with all things teaching we just stopped counting our hours once we hit our cap).

Teacher Version – explains the SEL in teacher terms.
Student Version – you can display as is to your class

Thank You

Thank you to Slides.go for the great free templates. Thank you to DiceApp.io for the dice app. Thank you to Trumansburg Central Schools and to our Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Pam Rapoza for approving our summer PD hours. And, thank you to Courtney Kempski for working with me on this. It was a lot of fun to collaborate together.

Quadratic Formula Song

Normally when we learn in our actual classroom space when we get to learn the Quadratic formula in Algebra, I have the song playing as the students come in. This is not my original idea – in fact I learned the song when my daughter took Algebra. Her teacher played it day in and day out for them.

This year we were in our virtual learning environment when it was time to learn the formula. Naturally I still wanted to follow the tradition and play the song. However, when I went to find the song, I found A LOT of songs. There was the catchy, familiar version that I know and love set to the tune of “Pop Goes the Weasel” but there were also so many others out there. People sang it to the tune of Rolling in the Deep, there were rap versions and more. I found a few and popped them into a playlist on my YouTube channel and shared them with my students.

Continue reading “Quadratic Formula Song”

Color Coded Notes

This year our 8th grade Algebra class has the opportunity to “loop” with me as their teacher for a 2nd year. The benefits: we all know each other and our class systems are familiar. The drawbacks: students who hoped to get an opportunity to learn from someone else don’t get that opportunity and we can fall back into too familiar patterns with each other early in the year.

I’m happy to report that for the most part we haven’t settled into bad habits but instead I see new and better habits emerging. The kids have really let me grow as a teacher and I’ve let them grow as students. One great thing for our class is the addition of a new student. She is really organized and loves to color code her notes. The result? It is spreading!! I now have several students taking the time to add color to notes.

Mrs. Dawson we are all doing it now. We noticed it helps things stay in our brain better!

I hope it keeps spreading with this crew of young math students. Up next is solving inequalities where it is super FUN to add color to note taking!!

Examples of student color coded notes from our lesson solving systems of equations.

Whiteboard Equation Solving

You can use water-based markers on a whiteboard

It was a happy accident last year. A student (or maybe it was me I don’t actually remember) wrote on our classroom whiteboard in marker. Not dry erase marker. Oh dear!! We’ll have marker on our board forever, I thought. Before panicking though I grabbed some paper towels and a water spray bottle and was so happy to see that it came off!!

This mistake prompted me to use it as a teaching tool in the classroom. Continue reading “Whiteboard Equation Solving”

Integer Mind Maps

Our Mind Map Project

This fall I took an independent study class. The class was full of things, but one portion was an app that required you to create a mind map. I really haven’t done that before, and part of the course required that you create one that could be used in your classroom. I created one for our current unit of study at the time: Integers.

Upon looking at it, I realized it could be a really nice way to keep everything straight. We discovered the rules for integers by using integer chips. I felt pretty good about the exploration piece of this. I pre-taught the kids in Math Lab so they’d have more time with the chips, and then we worked through the rules in our groups in class. Each day we’d add to the mind map. Occasionally, I posted a new picture of our classroom board mind map on Google Classroom. Continue reading “Integer Mind Maps”

Thank you Middle School PTO for our calculators!

Calculators are a must have in seventh grade math class. Mrs. Dawson has math classes all throughout the day, and has found a system for making sure that calculators are always available when you need them. The students were asked to buy calculators, as well as the PTO kindly buying enough for everyone to use during class. They are a part of our shared bins on every table, which also includes highlighters, pens, sticky notes, scissors, pencil sharpeners and erasers. Most of these items the students were asked to help supply the classroom with, and they are definitely being put to good use. Continue reading “Thank you Middle School PTO for our calculators!”

Pi Day! (2018)


Gail Brisson nabbed some pictures for us as the kids were rotating through each station. View our slideshow below. Read on for more about our Pi Day celebration. Many thanks to our 3 parent volunteers that helped us with the day. We really appreciate your help! Many thanks to our judges and to all the Math 7 team members that made this day possible. It was a lot to coordinate but we pulled it off.

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Pi Day was a fun celebration for our 7th graders!! We had to delay a day due to a late season snow storm (read all about our delay in our Week #26 updates) but we celebrated anyway just a day late!! The kids rotated through a series of stations that included:

  • Pi Recitations for a judge
  • Pie Eating
  • Game playing and pi wordsearch
  • Pi Chain making and math problem challenge
  • Calculating Pi
  • Project Viewing

Here are just some of the links to the many projects that our 7th grade Library Media Literacy classes made!! They worked hard at this and embraced it.  Continue reading “Pi Day! (2018)”

Using the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil for Teaching (2018)

Two years ago I was a long-term sub teaching 8th grade math in a classroom where the SmartBoard wasn’t working properly. It wouldn’t stay calibrated, rendering it really not usable. Instead of declaring it dead, I noticed the Apple TV in the room and had a brainstorm – could I airplay from my iPad pro to the Apple TV and use it for instruction? The short answer was yes, and I used this set-up for classroom teaching. At the time I wrote about it on my husband’s blog. I am posting that here because while many things have changed and improved in two years, the heart of the matter is still very relevant. Read my original post about using the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil for teaching math.

I’ve divided this new post into two parts: “Getting there” and “How I’m using things.”  If you are only interested in how I’m using this technology, please skip to the second part. I included the first part because I want to thank the people who helped me with this, and I want to remember it. Continue reading “Using the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil for Teaching (2018)”

How I use Trello as a Lesson Plan Book (2018)

Anyone who chats with me about computer things realizes quickly that I LOVE Trello. Every time I discover some new way to involve it in my life one of my family members remarks, “You know you really should work for Trello or at least get paid as an ambassador!”

I used to use Google Drive exclusively for tutoring, but then I’d find it challenging to keep things in order. Trello was helpful with its cards, but it wasn’t until after using Trello for a full year tutoring students that I realized that the calendar feature was the lynchpin for using it very successfully. I tutored my son through Algebra 1 and we needed to keep a daily log to show his school that we were actually doing work. I wanted something that we could just share with them virtually, so I went looking at the power up opportunities. Fortunately for me, a calendar was an option. The calendar allows you to put due dates in all your items, and they appear on the date they are due on the calendar view.  Continue reading “How I use Trello as a Lesson Plan Book (2018)”

Whiteboard Fun (2017)

Last week somehow a regular, water based marker ended up on the ledge of one of our whiteboards. I’ve heard tragic whiteboard stories from my own kids over the years about permanent markers being used on whiteboards and ruining them so I immediately panicked. My kids had told me that if you go over the marker in dry erase marker it will come off. I did that. Nothing. Oh dear. Then we thought to try water. Gone. “Oh yes, the marker wasn’t PERMANENT, it was just water based.”

After I got home that day I realized this was a happy accident. There are so many times that I’d love to have a problem or problems persist during the day but instead have to write them again for each class period. How could I use this effectively to offer better instruction? Differentiation would be the first use. I had an idea!! Continue reading “Whiteboard Fun (2017)”