Post 01 – First Week Pre-Algebra, Robotics, and Advisory Activities

Well as part of my goals this year, I’d like to continue to blog every week as a reflective practice in my middle school math & robotics classes.  This is my 7th year in the classroom, 4th year teaching middle school math & robotics, and 3rd year doing weekly blogs.  I’m impressed by the number of teachers doing the #teach180 initiative where teachers write a DAILY reflection.  Some will do an Instagram or Twitter post and that’ll suffice.  I’m going to be less worried about the presentation aspect of these blogs this year; I’m not spending time on cover photos or even much time on photos within the blog…because it didn’t really send much more traffic to my site last year anyways.  It’s all about the title; that’s what get’s people to come.

My first week activities this year included the following:


Four 4’s to get students working together, start notating division with a fraction bar instead of a division sign, and begin asking questions about the order of operations which comes up in Unit 01.  Saw one teacher said she uses the activity to actually teach the order of operations and exponents.  I probably should’ve done that, but using it to prime them before those lessons I think has it’s value, especially if we come back to it.

I introduced my classroom economy.  Had a few new jobs and am instilling a living wage; last year all salaries were less than the cost of rent because I wanted them to work to try and get bonus money.  I’ve got some resources on how I do my entire classroom economy HERE.

I did the Building Shapes activity by YouCubed.  Went fairly well when tied to the video on what to do when you’re stuck on a problem (draw a picture, work together, experiment, start with a smaller case, and look for different resources).  Wish I had more resources like rulers so students could’ve have used those.  Also did the activity in about 35 minutes which was maybe 10 minutes less than what was ideal.  Most groups worked well together, some groups of students who I had last year and were already fairly comfortable in my class had trouble staying focused as a few kids in the group were goofing around and making it difficult for the others in the group.

I also had them do the About Me sheet my students did last year.  Those who I had last year were given the one they did as 6th graders.  They cringed a bit at some of their answers.  I meant to give them back at the end of the year but forgot.


In robotics, I have one of my advisees who moved onto 9th grade return to see if she could TA in there.  She was in robotics as a 6th grader and is really bright so I was down for it.  I’ve never had a TA.  It’ll work out really well because I don’t do classroom economy in robotics so she can do all the jobs that normally are given out to students like taking attendance and doing some simple grading.  She’ll also just be a help to students.

First activity for them is to do some modules based on their experience level.  Beginners work on Course 2 (through lesson 7), intermediate does Course 3 (through lesson 7), and advanced does Course 4 (through lesson 9).  I don’t have them do the entire thing for the sake of time (I’d like to have the most time working with the robots throughout the semester).  It ends up being appropriately challenging for everyone and then they have to take a screenshot when they’re done and turn it into Google Classroom along with a reflection one of the things they learned and how they thing that code could be used with a robot or drone.


My advisory is a little smaller this year with 12 students, 5 of them being new 6th graders.  I have lucked out each year in advisory and haven’t had any really difficult students.  All of them really seem like they want to be there and look forward to advisory, which I know wouldn’t be true if I had some of the challenging kids from a few of my math classes.

I’m trying a talking stick this year during our listening and sharing circle.  It’s an actual talking stick from the Masai tribe that I got when I went to Kenya last year so that’s kind of fun and gives it a little bit more legitimacy.

We also started working our SMART goals at the end of the week.  Here’s the document I used for that.

This year during academic support day, I’ll not only be checking in with their grades but will see if their planner is set up for the following week, if their inbox is caught up (some students will just have dozens of unread emails within the first few weeks) and if their backpack is all organized.  Still navigating how much to oversee this with the 8th graders; feels normal with the 6th and 7th but by 8th grade, feels a bit juvenile to say ‘ok let’s make sure you’ve got your planner set up for next week.’  One 8th grader said he doesn’t feel like writing in the classes prior to the homework and just writes it as he gets it.  I’ll probably just check in to see if he’s actually writing assignments in there and that’ll be fine.


I’m going to try and follow some other blogging teachers this year to get some ideas on what to blog about besides reflecting on my week.  I’m also in the market for a good book on education to read.  We did a book club a few years ago with the book The Smartest Kids in the World and met every couple weeks on Friday’s during lunch.  It was great.  Any ideas?

By Thom H Gibson

I help middle school STEM teachers create meaningful & memorable experiences for their students. Teacher, podcaster, YouTuber. Two-time teacher of the year

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