Tag Archives: make it stick

First Two Days Reflection

I actually started on the 13th, but am just getting around to blogging about it because I spent all last weekend making lagging, spiraling homework as well as activities that were not worth the effort I put into them (but that’s a topic for another post).  I’m teaching Algebra II w/ Trig and PreAP Precal, but I did the same thing in both classes for the first two days. I’m also adding a rating system from 1 (that sucked) to 10 (that was awesome)


    • High-fived all students and checked off names/got nicknames as they walked in. Rating: 9 due to difficulty in multitasking, also weird looks from students
    • Had them fill out google survey. Besides name, nickname, class period, these questions are also on there: Google Student Info Survey Rating: 8 I thought these kids could text fast, but it always takes sooooo long.
    • Told them a bit about myself. Rating: 10 because I’m awesome.
    • Hit the high points of the syllabus, showed them how to get to my google doc that will have links to everything we do in class SO DON’T ASK ME WHAT YOU MISSED. Rating: 5 I mean, it’s a syllabus.
    • Played the first day video from youcubed’s week of inspirational math. Rating: 7 Couldn’t get much discussion out of them after it, but it was first day.
    • Continued with youcubed’s day one activity of writing group norms. Now I just need to make them into a poster. Rating: 8 Got everyone involved and talking. Got some good descriptors: “Open-mindedness” “Listening” “Optimistic”
    • Spent the rest of the day with the Four Fours activity, also from youcubed’s suggested first day. Basic idea: use four fours and any math operation(s)/symbol(s) to make all the numbers from 1-20. Rating: 10 Almost 100% participation the whole time. This would also be a great starting activity for order of operations. Two classes had enough time to get all 20!
    • Homework was reading the Make It Stick handout and also having parent fill out google survey, here’s the good part of it:Google Parent SurveyRating: 7 Only about 75% of parents have filled it out as of yesterday. On the other hand, one parent actually wrote in the additional comments section, “Thank you for a great and innovative syllabus experience.” The “I’m proud of my child because” question is great to refer to in parent meetings.


  • High-fived everyone again. Rating: 10 Pro tip: If you’re setting stuff up between classes as kids are coming in, just go around the room quickly and high-five them before you stand outside the door.
  • Bellringer was 3 things you learned from the reading, 2 questions you still have, and one interesting fact.  After they finished writing, I gave them 1 minute to share interesting fact with group. Then I gave them 2 minutes to try to answer each other’s questions, then asked each group to share questions they still had and I answered them. I gave them another 2 minutes to decide their favorite key idea as a group, had each group share, then I elaborated with more information from the book. Rating: 9 Good discussions in each class!  Especially when I brought up the fact about re-reading not being helpful and “illusions of mastery.” My favorite moment: I was discussing lagging homework and asked, “so have you ever been in a class where the teacher says, ‘uh-oh, I have two minutes to finish this problem that you need to know in order to do the homework?’ Well, now we can hold off until the next day since your homework won’t apply to today’s lesson!” Then one girl replied, “Or we could try it as homework as generation for the next day!”  I think I may have cheered when she said that.
  • I had them fill out their math goal and find accountability buddies. Rating: 3 Almost every single student just wrote “make an A.” I also haven’t had time for them to check in with their accountability buddies. Would not do again, or maybe wait until a few weeks into class.
  • Up next was paper folding from youcubed.org.  Rating: 2  I would not do this activity again. After the quick success of the first two (fold a square into a square that is 1/4 of the original; fold a square into a triangle that is 1/4 of the original), the next ones amp up the difficulty by quite a bit (fold a triangle that is 1/4 of original square but not congruent to first triangle; fold 2 different squares that are 1/2 of the original). Also, when students thought they got it, instead of convincing their partner, they would call me over and ask me if it was right. Quite a few students embraced the challenge and kept on folding, but for many of them, the frustration (and maybe pointless-ness?) was just too great and they quit. I’d be interested to hear if those teaching younger students have more success. And I still don’t know how to do the second square oriented differently from the first that has 1/2 the area of the original. I thought quite a few of them had it but upon trying to convince me, they didn’t.

I hope to back soon with a recap of the first real week of teaching, but after working on math for the last two weeks straight I need an afternoon of not thinking. At all.

My thing: It has been a while since I share a favorite thing, so today I’m going to absolutely amaze you with CamelCamelCamel.  This is a price tracker for Amazon and works in three different ways: 1) Connect it to your Amazon wishlist. It will automatically alert you via email when the price of something you want has gone down. You can also add individual items on the website (great for tracking stuff from other people’s wishlists for gifts) 2) Use the browser plug-in or copy the amazon URL into its webpage to see the price history. Great to know if that $40 price is just a high mark, or if it’s been $40 for the last three months, or if it wavers between $30 and $50. 3) Browse their list of popular products for “good deals” and “best prices.” Two things it doesn’t do: it does not alert you to lightening deals (but I usually get an alert if its a an-day daily deal) and it also cannot track kindle book prices. But I still think it’s a great tool!  And you could probably do something really mathy with the historic price charts, too.

Make It Stick: The Student Brochure

[Updated at 4:45 to include student goal worksheet]

Motivated by Julie (see LOTS of good conversation on this document) and by Pam, I made my own Make It Stick handout for students. I plan to assign this as homework the first night and spend the second day discussing it in class. (The first day I want to do YouCubed.org’s first day of inspirational math week.)

Here are the pics (we have an electric brochure folder so I’ll be using that. Or else fold them while watching the required annual hey-don’t-touch-blood! video)

Make It Stick Student BrochureMake It Stick Student Brochure pg 2

Here is the doc file (I used Chowderhead and Century Gothic font) and here is a pdf file with a generic “In this class,…” instead of “In Mrs Craig’s class.”

I also want them to make a goal and find some accountability buddies:

math class goalDoc file   PDF file

Make it Stick Posters (and Poster FAQs)

[Updated at 4:00 to add “Delight” poster!]
[Updated 8/5 to add larger poster files and labels]

One of my (numerous) goals this school year is to introduce my students to the learning skills from Make It Stick by Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel. (I think @druinok should really get a royalty from all the people that have started reading this after seeing the #eduread discussions! Which reminds me, join us at 8E/7C/6M/5P this Thursday where we start discussing What’s Math Got to Do With it?)

Another one of my (numerous) goals was to encourage “strengthening a dendrite” from Chris Shore’s My Favorites–giving students a sticker of a dendrite whenever they do something growth-mindset-y or that shows mathematical thinking.

And one of the things I like to do is make posters and play with fonts.

Put them together and what have you got?


Strengthen a Dendrite

Fonts used (in order): Captain Howdy; Chowderhead; Traveling Typewriter; Grand Hotel; Budmo Jiggler; Antique No 14; Janda Elegant Handwriting; Ever After; Sofia; Waltograph; KG Let Her Go; KG Happy; Modern No. 20; Mountains of Christmas; Bodoni MT Black; KG Eyes Wide Open; Captain Howdy

(pdf file here) (doc file here-needs fonts listed in the caption or change to your favorites)


math brain is under construction(Pdf file here) (18×24 file here)


Dendrite stickers(doc file here for using these labels) Amy Fine made a file for 60 labels to a page in case those you have those instead! Thanks, Amy!

I also made an alternate brain poster using the same font as the first poster’s title in case you’re into that kind of thing:

Math Brain Under Construction(pdf file here).  I also couldn’t decide between having the “is” or not. Opinions?

If any of you went on the #TMC15 cupcake run to My Delight Cupcakery (or enjoyed the cupcakes from said run), you may remember a pretty awesomely accurate sticker that they used. I made a poster of it but wanted to make sure it was OK with them first and Melinda replied, “That’s awesome, Meg!  Sure, you can make a print for your classroom; the quote is meant to be shared with everyone!  So glad you got more out of your visit than you expected, and thank you for sharing our Delight with your coworkers.”  🙂  I am more in love with this bakery than I even thought possible now. (And I was in pretty deep after trying their ice cream filled ones. ICE CREAM FILLED CUPCAKES, PEOPLE.) Anyway, here it is!

True delight color(Color PDF) (BW PDF) (18×24 Color PDF)

Now for some poster FAQs:

Did you make these? Yes.

Where did you get the pictures? Try Wikimedia Commons, Graphics Fairy, and ClipArtETC (h/t to @mathequalslove for that last one. Check out their graphs, too!) Of course, you can always do a Google Image search and only use those images/photos that are labeled for reuse (as I’m sure we all do already, right?).

How did you make these? The first one (and most of my posters) are made using Word, then I use doPDF to print to a PDF. Try using textboxes and clipart to jazz it up. And of course some fonts! Pro tip: Expand your text to make it seem snazzier:expand font exHere’s how:

expand fontPlay around with the values in number #4 until you get something that you think looks nice.

The brain poster I made using Silhouette Design software that came with my Silhouette machine but is free for anyone to use – download it at the bottom of this page. I like it because you can have your text trace any path. In this case, I made a circle, then had the two different lines of text trace it. There’s lots of tutorials on how to do this if you’re interested!  (WARNING: The actual machine is WAY addicting. You’ll want to cover EVERYTHING in vinyl decals.)

You may also want to try Canva or PicMonkey online. Some people also use Powerpoint instead of Word. Just give it a shot!

How do you print them? Around this time of year, I keep my eye out for Staples poster deals. Usually they offer a color 18x24ish for about $5.  I made these black and white so you can also take advantage of their $2 engineering prints. These are printed black and white on lesser quality paper. [Updated: they also print color for $3. Read more here.]They are not recommended for photographs, but if you look on Pinterest some people have gotten beautiful, fun, huge photos made for super cheap! We are fortunate to have our own laminator at school and once laminated the engineering prints hold up pretty well, but I did have an issue with the corner puckering where I used hot glue on it. It was normal temp glue (I usually use low-temp but had run out), so I don’t know if that was the issue. Just wanted to warn you about that!

Now go forth and strengthen those dendrites!

Make It Stick: Even Stickier with #eduread

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For the past few weeks, I’ve been joining the lovely gals of #eduread to discuss Make It Stick by Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel.

As for the book, the first 100 pages were really good, then it dragged quite a bit for the next 100. There were quite a few stories that were supposed to help elaborate their points, but really just seemed tangential. However, stick with it (ha!), because things get really good in the last 50 pages which has tips for students, teachers, and trainers as well as stories/examples that really let you see the tips in action.  I wish I could get a copy of this chapter into the hands of every student!

Here are some of the big ideas and how I want to implement them this year:

Calibrating-(we decided we liked this term better than “a-whole-lotta-quizzing”) Implement a lot of small, low-stakes quizzes so students can “calibrate” their learning-where they are and what they need to work on. Rereading does not actually help master material, but quizzing and flashcards (with correction) does. Although I don’t think I can handle daily quizzes, I’d like to try for maybe 3 times a week.

Spaced and Interleaved Practice- Although it doesn’t feel like it, trying to remember something a few hours/days/weeks strengthens your learning. Also, massed practice of one topic can lead to “illusion of mastery.” I’m guessing I’m not the first teacher who has had this issue–each day the kids are doing great on the topic, then you get to study guide day and all heck breaks loose because the kids are not used to the problems being all together. I’m going to try to do lagging homework (the homework for the night has topics from a couple of days previous) that also has a lot of spiral review in it.

Generation and Reflection- Generation is trying to find a solution before being shown and I’m assuming you know what reflection is. 🙂  I’d like to use these at the beginning/end of units: start each unit with some sample problems from the chapter and some leading questions: “what do you think the main idea of this unit is?” “what might we need to work these problems?” “how do you think these are different/same from previous chapters?” Then at the end of the unit (or maybe midway and again at the end), have them reflect on their original ideas and what they now know about the unit.

Mnemonics I also liked that they are a fan of mnemonics as a way to organize your learning, not in place of learning. There is one topic that I teach that some teachers use a mnemonic for that I wasn’t really fond of. Now I see that we can discuss the how and why of each part, then have the students use the mnemonic to remember all the parts–in essence, a to-do list of tasks, not the tasks themselves.

The really big takeaway from the book is that you must embrace the fact that “learning is deeper and more durable when it is effortful.” Many of these practices will seem hard to students (and me) and they will feel like they are not gaining anything, but the authors are pretty persuasive (with research to back it up, not just anecdotal accounts) that these setbacks are a sign of effort, not failure, and will make learning more meaningful and long-lasting.

Special thanks to @numerzgal, @algebrasfriend, @pamjwilson, @lmhenry, @fourkatie, @rachelrosales, @mary_dooms, and especially @druinok for such lovely conversation, debate, and motivation. What are we #edureading next?!?!?