You Have TI-Nspires…Now What?

TI-Nspires are amazing calculators. There are so many features, don’t try to learn them all at once. First of all, get the teacher software! I can’t live without it. In my district, even the students have the software available on their laptops. It’s wonderful.

How do you get started? The first thing I learned was go to the HOME SCREEN and choose NEW DOCUMENT. If there is a screen that asks if you want to save, say no. Now choose what you want to do. If you are learning, you will only choose graph or calculator. This is what I still choose most of the time!

new-doc-screen  choice-screen

The calculator screen is easy to use. If you are looking for something specific it is probably here: (see below) I used this button to type in a cube root as seen in the next pic.

special-characters  calculator-screen

Let’s say you now want to graph something. You have a choice. Start completely over and go to the home button and go through the same steps explained above, or add a page to your document. Let’s add a page. Simply click CTRL (blue button) +Page (doc button below home.)

add-a-page   graphing-1

Choose Graph! Now you can type an equation. The x button is one of the white alphabet buttons at the bottom of the calculator. Hit enter when you are ready to graph. To graph a second equation, click the tab button and type in a new graph… or to change the first equation, after clicking tab, up arrow to the original equation. If you know this much, you are ready to use the calculator. The only other things that are nice to know at this stage is that ctrl t will pull up a table (and ctrl t will take the table off).


AND the menu button has many things that will help you. I suggest clicking the menu button and checking it out! I use #4 and #6 daily. #6 is where intersections and zeros are and #4 of course helps you change the window settings like on the 84+.


My goal was to help you get started. If you will start using these features and become very familiar with the calculator, you will discover new things on your own. Your students will also help you discover things. The main thing is to get started! Don’t let those calculators just sit. They are really awesome and helpful!


Seating Charts – Are They Really Necessary?

Do you want your students to be focused? Do you want to keep your students on their toes? Are your students not performing as expected? Seating charts might the answer!

On the first day of school, I put the students in alphabetical order and keep them there for the first six weeks. This helps me learn names quickly. It also helps me learn who not to sit together in the next seating chart. In the first six weeks you will also learn who is quiet, who is loud, who can’t see very well, who is unorganized, who needs special help…the list goes on. My second six weeks has started and I will concentrate on partner work this six weeks. I have my desks in rows still but now I have 8 rows with


4 seats. Yes it’s crowded. I pair students up like this:


If I have an extra student, then he/she will pair up with the group in front or behind. When pairing students, I used my first 6 weeks grades. I tried to put a low with a high. I also have a few students with special needs, so I strategically placed them. I have one student that brings a huge backpack everyday. I put him on the far left, so he has plenty of room to spread out. Anyone that failed the first six weeks, is now right by my desk or at least in the front row so I can keep an eye on them.

It really bothers me when the desks don’t stay where I put them, so I put tape on the floor and the front person knows that at the end of class to make sure that’s where their desk goes and the whole row will follow suit.

Is this time consuming? Only on the front end. It is worth it though. I also like to label each row as an “A” or “B”. I will say things like, “A, you will tell your partner what the definition of perpendicular is and B you will tell your partner what parallel is.” I try as often as possible to have them speak the language of my class to each other.

Seating makes a difference. If students know you don’t care where they sit, it becomes a free for all. I’ve become a control freak over the years but it is only because I’ve been the teacher that let’s their students sit where they want, listen to their ipods, bring in food and so forth and guess what? It turned out to be horrible. My students were too comfortable and not ready to learn. I’ve changed and I’ve seen a big change in how my students perform. You will too when you gain control.

How Do You Know If Your Students Are Learning?

Since I’m a math teacher, I love data. I know I’m in the minority. Collecting data on students shouldn’t be that difficult. How do you know if your students are really “getting it” if you don’t assess, collect data and plan accordingly?

I like to collect data on questions on tests. I want to know what the most missed questions were, so I can reteach that material again. If you don’t have time to collect the data yourself, let the students help. Have them go put tally’s on the board for the questions they missed! Now you can analyze the most missed questions.


It’s hard after a test to find time to reteach, so be creative! I have a resource for ideas on recycling weak objectives. Check it out!

Recycling Weak Objectives

When things are crazy at school and you feel like you are unorganized and you are behind in your curriculum, remember your real purpose: to teach kids! Really teach…so they learn. If they aren’t learning and you’re working harder than them, something is wrong. Take a deep breath and gain control. YOU know what is best for your students. Make sure they are truly learning.

When I was a young teacher I remember saying, “Well I taught it to them, so I can’t help it if they don’t know it.” That’s awful! I presented the material, but I didn’t check for understanding. I didn’t ask good questions and I apparently was not planning on reteaching. I hope you don’t make the same mistakes as me. Teaching is very rewarding when you see good results. Ask yourself when you are planning a lesson, “How will I know if they got it?” Formative assessments are quick checks to see if students understand.

Examples of formative assessment: Asking questions as you walk around, a quiz after a lesson, a ticket out, a quick write, partners retelling how to do a process…the list goes on. It doesn’t have to be spectacular, but it does need to be done on a daily basis.

Plan your formative assessments and you will be amazed. You will learn very quickly, what you need to immediately reteach. You will also figure out quickly how to teach it differently AND by the end of the day, you know the best way to teach that particular topic.


The Secret to Discipline!

For years I did not know what it took to have discipline in my classroom. I’m an easy going person and it’s not in my personality to deal with behavior. I’ve had some miserable years where I let kids get away with too much and I would go home exhausted and upset.

I usually give surveys at the end of the year to help me improve. One year in the survey, several kids said that they had a hard time learning in my classroom because I let kids disrupt the class and I did nothing about it. Wow! I felt awful. That woke me up. I looked at my classroom full of students a lot differently after that.

I was a coach for many years and I felt like if I wrote referrals and sent kids to the office, that it looked like I couldn’t handle my business in my room. Coaches are supposed to have total control, right? I also was lazy and didn’t want to go through all the steps it took. The thought of documentation, calling parents and setting up conferences was enough to keep me from finding a good method of dealing with behavior issues.

Here’s what I finally learned that worked for me:

Secret #1: Be firm. Not too nice and not too mean. You have to find a happy balance. If I say something, I have to stick to it. If I tell someone to be quiet or I’ll call their mom, then I have to call their mom. That’s not being mean, it’s doing what I said I was going to do.

Secret #2:  Start from the beginning. It’s hard to try to discipline in the middle of the year. You will have a very hard time getting your students on track if you wait that long. On the first day of school, if you notice a kid that is already being rowdy, that’s a warning sign. Ninety-nine percent of your kids will be very quiet the first day of school. I’ve been teaching for 30 years and I’ve noticed that the kids that are bold and rowdy the first day could be the ones you need to start with right away. (Hey that rhymes! First Day…Right Away!)

Secret #3: Have a plan! Create a plan you can live with. It needs to be something that you will follow and something that your administration will back. It needs to include documentation, notifying parents and conferencing with the student. I have a plan in my TpT store that does exactly this:

Behavior Plan for Secondary Students

Go check it out if you’d like, but it might not fit your personality or your situation or grade level. My plan is for secondary students. It will probably work for students as young as 5th grade. If you are a young teacher, get with a veteran teacher and ask them what they do. You will be so glad that you put a plan in place. Your students will love you for this and you will be amazed at how much you can accomplish in a classroom where you can actually teach.

So remember:

*Be firm

*Start from the beginning

*Have a plan