First 6 Weeks in Algebra 1

Algebra 1 is a fun but challenging class to teach. So many thoughts run through my head when I think about the beginning of the year in Algebra. One of the biggies is how much do the students remember from their previous math class? This is especially a big question since last year our district went to a distance learning format. I’m not sure what to expect from the incoming students, so I need a plan.

This year will be interesting. Our district has decided to have both online learning and in class learning. I’m working hard to make sure I have plenty of lessons that will work for either scenario. I’m going to start the year off with a two day review of number sense, order of operations and basic operations with integers. I’ve used this in the past because I always get a range of abilities, so I want to know where the students are. I have a print version of what I use and I’ve recently made a digital version. After I do the two day lesson, I give the students 3 quizzes (yep 3… because I want the repetition and plus it’s a challenge). All the quizzes are similar to each other but ask slightly different questions. The quizzes contain 15 questions. To move to the next quiz, students must make an 80 or better. If they don’t, they retake it. (These are timed because I don’t want the students to take too long. Either they know it or they don’t.) This can last up to 3 weeks. It’s not hard to keep up with because I take a grade on each quiz. Here’s a peek at the print version of the quiz vs. the Google Forms version:

The majority of the six weeks should (and hopefully will) be spent on solving equations. The days in the plan are block-schedule days. We have classes every other day for 80 minutes except on Fridays when the classes are only about 35 minutes. Below is plan that I will follow with the activities:

# of Days Topic
2Pre-Algebra Review – PDF Version or Digital Version
1Patterns (Boom Card Lesson)
1.5*Setting up and Solving Equations and Inequalities
1.5*Solving Equations and Inequalities
1*Literal Equations
1*Review Equations and Inequalities
My First 6 Weeks Plan

*Get all of the resources above in a bundle: Equations Bundle

I’ve linked the topics to some of my lessons and worksheets that I used in my TpT store, but as I see the need, I go find content in other places. My district uses a couple of resources that I pull from as well, but our students know how to find answers online for these assignments, so I don’t like to use them for homework.

If you’ve never used quizziz.com, you should try it. The kids really enjoy doing these. I like that the students can do them more than one time. I have the students show work in their journal. Basically it’s just a digital quiz with 4 answer choices. These are teacher-made and there are a ton to choose from on just about every topic.

One of my favorite digital resources is Boom Learning. If you like task cards, then you will love Boom Cards. Again, these cards are teacher-made. There are a variety of ways kids can answer questions. I started creating my own decks. I used two of my own creations the first six weeks. One set of Boom Cards covered patterns and how to write an expression from a pattern. The other set was for practicing solving equations and inequalities. The kids can go through them as many times as they want so they get a lot of practice and get the best grade possible. To use Boom Cards, you need a teacher account. The free account is perfectly fine, but you don’t get to see the reports. The best thing to do is to get a paid account which is only $15 – 35 dollars a year depending on which plan you choose. Make your own decks or purchase decks. There are free choices as well. Click here to go check out my store. I’m brand new at making these, but I can already tell that this will be something I work on because all of my classes love Boom Cards!

After I get used to my students and find out who has gaps in their learning, then it will be time to dive into tutoring. I will engage my students through online tutoring this year. It will be an interesting year to say the least. I know that I will need patience and I will need to be flexible. I’m ready for anything and I hope you are too. I wish you well in your new year!

Happy Teaching!

Study Guides for Math Portions of College Entrance Exams and College Readiness Exams

When you think of college entrance exams, I’m sure the SAT, PSAT and ACT come to mind. More high schools are offering these tests during school. Some students will take these tests 2 or 3 times or more. Why? Because they need a certain score to gain entrance into a school or to apply for a scholarship. The PSAT is a nice warm up to help students know where they stand before they take the real thing.

Every October, schools offer the PSAT/NMSQT to their juniors. Although sophomores can also take it , only the junior scores count toward the National Merit Scholarship competition. Schools are also starting to offer the PSAT 8/9 (for 8th and 9th graders) and PSAT 10 (this is the regular PSAT, but does not qualify for the National Merit Scholarship competition).

It’s good that schools are offering these tests to their students so they can see the format of this test and the way questions are asked. The SAT is a very important test for students planning on going to college. Colleges use the SAT (and/or ACT) to make admission decisions which makes these tests very important for students that want to go to a certain school.

The ACT is another college entrance exam. Some schools are offering this test during the school year to their juniors. The ACT is different and has a science section where the SAT does not. Again, this test requires practice and there is no pre-test like the SAT.

There are a couple of more tests worth mentioning. Nowadays, colleges want students to take a college readiness test to see if students have the skills to start taking college courses. The ACCUPLACER is used by many states. Texas has their own college readiness test called the TSI. Both the ACCUPLACER and TSI are similar. Students scores will determine if they are able to start their English and Math courses on level or if they will need to take some remedial classes first. The ACCUPLACER and the TSI can be taken as early as the 9th grade and in some cases, earlier. Early College High Schools have their students take the college ready tests the summer before their 9th grade year to give them plenty of time to retake them until they pass.

I’ve been teaching high school math for 30+ years, and it was not until I became a teacher at an Early College High School that I became fully aware of all the tests students take. I realized that I needed to be the one to help them get to where they need to be. I know how important it is for high school teachers to help incorporate college entrance and college readiness practice into their curriculum, especially math teachers. I’ve spent a lot of time creating many resources to do just this.

Below, you will find links that will take you to my Teachers Pay Teachers Store where I sell these resources. There are many options, but the option that I recommend if you are planning on doing a ton of review is the Math Test Prep Bundle for College Entrance. It contains the SAT Bundle, ACT Bundle and a TSI/ACCUPLACER Bundle that you see below:

College Readiness and College Entrance Exam Bundle
ACT Math Prep

3 Reviews – 86 Questions

SAT/PSAT Math Prep

6 Reviews – Worksheets, Bellringers and a 5 Week PSAT Plan.

TSI/ACCUPLACER Math Prep

7 Reviews!

I’ve recently started a digital version of the TSI/ACCUPLACER College Readiness Bundle (this is the exact same, but for a digital classroom setting). It is incomplete, but will be finished by the start of the next school year.

It is so important that math teachers take the time to prepare students for their future. Start making a plan now on how to meet the needs of your students. We all have different situations, but I’m sure you can find a way to include study material that will increase your students’ chances of success on college entrance exams and college readiness exams. Good Luck!

Using Blogger For Online Teaching

I’ve thought many times about writing about how I use Blogger for my classroom. With the coronavirus outbreak, it seems like a perfect time to do this. Like many of you, my district has called off classes for two weeks and who knows if it will go longer. I will still be able to give my students the things they need through Blogger. I’m really grateful that I started using this free platform.

I’ve been on spring break for a week. The week before spring break, we lost our school internet and the school website and all of the systems that we use. I’m in a huge district, so how could this happen? I still was able to use many of my tools because my campus has a second internet since we are connected to a college campus. I was still able to use my Blogspot! I started using Google Classroom at the beginning of the year to see what all of the fuss was about and I found it too restricting. I have too many things in my personal Google Drive and it was a pain to go back and forth between my personal Google Drive and the school Google Drive. I still love Google Forms and Google Slides etc., but I use them through Blogger which is a free blog publishing service by Google. If you have a gmail, then you have access to Blogger!

Here’s how to get to Blogger… Open a tab in Google Chrome. (You need to be signed in to your gmail.) In the top left part of the page you opened, you will see the waffle I highlighted. Click that waffle and you will see lots of stuff you can use. You may need to use the slide bar to find Blogger. Blogger has a funny looking B with an orange background. Click it! Follow the directions to set up the blog. The best thing to do if you are unsure of how to do the set up is to go watch a YouTube video. When I set mine up, I just fumbled my way through it. Don’t worry about a custom domain. You have to pay for domain names, so stick with the name that blogger has you create.

Go check out my Blogspot if you’d like an example. I’m giving you a chance to check it out so that you can use my ideas or any resources that I post. You are free to use them in your classroom, but please don’t use any resources for commercial use. All of my material is copyrighted and is only for teacher use. Here’s the link: https://mrshamitersclass.blogspot.com/.

Now that you have this platform, you just need to give your students the link. I teach 3 different subjects. I could have a Blogspot for each subject, but I thought it would be easiest to have just one. I usually like to give assignments in the sidebar using “pages” and make announcements to all classes on the main section of the blog which is called the “posts”. I’m not always consistent on that, but students know to look in both places. I also have started using a Google Calendar which is another way to attach lessons and/or quizzes and tests.

My purpose for giving my fellow math teachers access to my Blogspot is because I want to help. Even if you do not want to create your own Blogspot, then feel free to rummage through mine and find things you need. Also, I will be posting lessons for my students starting tomorrow.

While I’m at it, I have a free item to give you. A perfect tool during this time of distance learning is Boom Learning. Click here to get my free Domain and Range Practice Boom Cards. If you’ve never used Boom Cards, you can add a new platform to your list of online tools! You will not regret it. They are easy to use and self-checking.

We will all get through this crazy time. Teachers are the toughest people I know. Be strong for your students. They look to us, so we must remain in control and be good examples for our students. I wish you well and please let me know if I can help you any further.

Quadrilateral Unit

Quadrilaterals are a big topic in geometry. There are so many things to know that it tends to get confusing for students. Students have misconceptions from their middle school math classes that are hard to overcome such as that a square is a square and only a square. A square is no way, no how a RECTANGLE! OH My!

I created a quadrilateral unit where I begin with a card sort activity. The cards have different shapes on them and the students are asked to separate them into parallelograms, trapezoids and other major shapes. This year, I decided that they should have a “for sure” pile and also make a “not sure” pile. I love listening to the conversations. Below is a pic of some slides I show:

The next thing that I like to do is discuss the Venn Diagram for Quadrilaterals. For some students, this is a breeze but for others, they are totally confused on why I’m using ovals in a diagram to represent groups of quadrilaterals. It’s best to make sure your students remember what a Venn Diagram is. I like to give an example of a region with math students overlapping a region of biology students to show that the overlap means all students taking both math and biology. Look at the Venn Diagram below. Can you figure out what quadrilaterals go in each region? Can some go in more than one spot?

This unit is the best place to use always, sometimes and never questions and if the students understand the Venn Diagram, then the always, sometimes and never questions are pretty obvious. It’s also a good time to talk about what does opposite and consecutive mean? Many of the definitions and properties use this terminology, so I spend time helping them understand where opposite sides and angles are versus consecutive sides and angles.

I like to get the kite and trapezoid out of the way first, so I can spend most of my time on the parallelograms. Students are not familiar with the kite, so this is usually a brand new topic for them. They think they know what a kite is but usually they are getting a rhombus confused with a kite. Each time I present a new quadrilateral, I give the definition and then we try to find other things that are always true about the shape. This is cool, because you get to talk about the diagonals and how they create congruent triangles. I also try to put proofs into the lesson as much as possible.

During the trapezoid part of the lesson, there is a discussion on isosceles trapezoids, midsegments of triangles and medians of trapezoids. A good reminder at this time is how trapezoids are related to parallel lines cut by a transversal, so that they can understand that there are some same side interiors that will be supplementary. Again, there is so much information, that its hard to know when to stop. Trapezoids could be a two week lesson if you let it, but I keep it to two pages. After the trapezoid lesson and the kite lesson, I give the students some practice on finding various parts of the shapes.

The rest of this unit is spent on parallelograms. Each time that I get to a new shape, I call it a “Parallelogram Study” or “Rectangle Study” etc. I let the students work through the definitions, properties and proofs. The other aspect of this lesson is discussing the coverses of the definitions and properties. This helps the students realize that if you see a shape and you are not sure what it is, then what is the least information you need to decide it is a rectangle for example.

The lesson concludes with practice on the parallelograms. There is a page of work where some major algebra topics are practiced. For instance, there is a rectangle problem where the students have to set up and solve a system. There is a rhombus problem where the students have to solve a quadratic. There is a square where the students find the length of the diagonal using the variable “s” for a side. This problem is a lead up to 45-45-90 triangles. I usually have to help the students with this whole page, but I don’t mind. Since I’m an Algebra II teacher as well, I like my geometry students to see as much algebra as time allows.

There is a set of task cards that act as a review for the Quadrilateral Test at the end of the unit. The test is only two pages long, but it is pretty involved. There is a major problem where the students have to find quite a few things. The picture of the problem is seen below:

Finally, there is another quick assessment that I use as a retest. All answer keys are included. It usually takes me about two weeks to get through all the work plus a couple of extra days to review and take the test. I love this unit. The information is extensive and I love how it hits on previous geometry and algebra topics. If you are interested, please check it out in my store. Click the pic below to go see the Quadrilateral Unit. If you would like to read more about my geometry curriculum, I have a blog post that you can read here: Geometry Curriculum for the Year.