First days of school: Mindset discussion/survey with Plickers

I didn’t use Plickers much last school year because I don’t ask a lot of multiple choice type questions in my classes. Most are more open ended to expose depths of student understanding. This school year, I found a way to use Plickers to facilitate group discussions and I am so excited to use them more this year!

While I am effective at supporting small groups working in my classes, I am not always the best at facilitating whole class discussions. I knew I wanted to hear students thoughts and dispel myths on how to learn math early in the school year. I have started this discussion in past years using Bowman Dickson’s survey found here.

Then I saw Julie Reulbach’s recent post on her plans for the first days of school. She mentions using Plickers as a brief survey.

I discovered that when setting up Plickers, you do not have to select a “correct” answer. Instead I decided it would be insightful to make the multiple choice options into a Likert scale.¬†Capture

This way after each question I could project the response graph. It was perfect to be able to just show students their peers ideas and allow discussions to happen with little facilitation from me!

For example, when I projected this question, and then the response graph, a student said,


“How can you agree with this? We can always learn more and improve.”

Then students who agreed chimed in citing how their parents can’t do math, so they can’t do math.

To which the students who disagreed argued that you can change what you understand through learning and effort…

I let it continue occasionally asking probing questions. It was interesting to see how dispersed student responses were, and great to have this data to look at later.

I plan to complete this survey again later in the year to see if students move more towards a growth mindset with respect to learning math through the school year.

Another thought I had through this process was how Plickers could be used to facilitate Talking Point discussions too.

My Classroom Setup

I’m finally pretty happy with my room set up.

I have awesome desks that are perfect for creating groups of various sizes and encouraging collaboration.

Whiteboards on every wall.

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Conversation starters / accountable talk posters above the whiteboard and a number line below this whiteboard.

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This wall has a border containing basic geometry images and terms as well as my favorite Einstein quote:

Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”

The black cabinet in the corner on the right in this picture contains a class set of laptops, a file cabinet & printer.

The chevron covered cabinet contains my materials (barbies, construction paper, unit cubes, geometric solids, anglegs, and lots & lots of cups)2015-08-24 11.48.16

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Along the top of this wall I have Mindset posters made by Sarah Hagan and the brain/ dendrite poster form Meg Craig.

On the far right you can see my student binder shelf where students keep their binders and INB’s¬†which they pick up at the beginning of each class.

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This poster by Meg Craig was made after she found a card similar to this in a package of cupcakes that we went to get in Claremont at TMC15. It makes me happy because it fits in with my class, but also because it reminds me of this summer!

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This year I took out my big desk and replaced it with a tiny desk to allow more room for students to work. I’m pretty much always messy and I’m ok with that.

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This is my bookshelf of tools for easy student access. Students are permitted to get anything they need form here any time as long as they put it back. It contains scissors, tape, compasses, rulers, protractors, patty paper, glue sticks, Math games, small whiteboards, colored highlighters, crayons, markers, colored pencils, extra copies of our warm up sheets etc…

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A little late – TMC15 summary

I fired up the old blogging machine and I found this in my drafts.

Incomplete and unpublished:

This TMC summary is hard to write, but the best way to grow is through reflection, so I’m putting it out there.

When I attended TMC13 I felt overwhelmed but excited to meet so many people who have contributed so much to my teaching. I was just about to start at a new school and I gained many new ideas and inspiration which continues to make me a much better teacher.

TMC14 was perfect. I knew many people and met many new folks. I left content and inspired. I’d spent the previous school year writing a 180 blog on my geometry class and through interactions around these daily postings I felt like part of a bigger thing. I gained many new ideas and motivation and came back excited to teach.

On to TMC15:

general constant improvement is hard.

  1. My #1TMCthing is to take care of myself to maintain my energy and motivation as I feel myself sinking into apathy. I will run 20 miles per week minimum for the entire school year (barring sickness or injury).
  2.  I will blog weekly to maintain a connection to other inspiring math teachers.
  3. I will develop & implement a spiraled curriculum in my semester long College prep path class.
  4. I will kinda-baby-spiral my geometry curriculum by implementing 1 off topic task per unit to encourage student retention.
  5. I will include a correction/reflection component to assessments & no grade on quizzes until after reflection

I find this insightful as I begin thinking about the upcoming school year and TMC16 (which is currently in progress).

I will save my TMC16 thoughts for another post, but I had to finish this and put it out there. Here is how I did on the resolutions above:

  1. I ran less miles per run, but more often and more regularly than in the past. It is nice to have the consistency and alone thinking time. Some of my best lessons are developed while running.
  2. pfft. I didn’t even publish this post.
  3.  I was conscious of spiraling. I didn’t intentionally develop anything beautiful but I incorporating more previous content as the year progressed,
  4. see above.
  5.  Did this. Never going back. Blogged about it here.