Document, Document, Document…

We hear it every year, but what, how, and when we should document is sometimes unclear. I recently…


We hear it every year, but what, how, and when we should  document is sometimes unclear.  I recently had the privilege to lead a professional development class in my district on Guided Math Groups in the Middle School Classroom, more to come on that session later.  The big question I received in every session was, “How do you document what you do for every student?”  I stumbled with this question because I have tried to document in notebooks, file folders with sticky notes, pieces of paper that I was going to file for every student, and they were all epic fails.  I have over a hundred students, so documenting the success of every student in my small group is impossible. I started thinking, do I really need to document every student?  My final answer was that I already document for every student.  Here’s how.

Documenting for Every Student

The question, “How do you document what you do for every student?” is simple.  We all create lesson plans, and that shows my plan for every student in my class.  That is what I am doing to measure their success daily.  Lesson PlanningProof of them mastering the lessons that I have taught are reflected in my gradebook.  Did the individual student master the concepts that I taught?  Look at your gradebook.

That lead me to start thinking of when should I document, what should I document, and how can I do this quickly and effectively?

When and What Should I Document

Of course we have to document for  IEP and 504 purposes, but I would also want to document certain students who continually seem to struggle with areas in the content that I teach.  For example, if I have a student that counts on their fingers to calculate in middle school and doesn’t seem to be able to complete tasks during the small group, that is worth documenting.  It is hindering his ability to be successful.  Sleeping StudentAnother example, I have a student that sleeps during my class and is failing because they are unable to stay awake and focus, that is worth documenting.  If a student has attended tutorials for three weeks and they are still unable to be successful, document.  Students that are struggling with reading the problems and understanding what is needed, or that seem to have a language barrier you should document.  This documentation is needed to support the student and notify parents/administration of your concerns for the student’s success.  These scenarios and others can not be reflected in the lesson plan for each individual student.  You need the information and it will be supported by the student’s results in your gradebook.

How Can I Document Quickly and Effectively

I think this is the real question teachers are wanting answered when they ask this in trainings.  We are told to document, document, document, but there is not a standard form that we all fill out as teachers that just seems to be appropriate for every situation and that is actually beneficial for every campus.  On my campus, we have an online program to document behavioral concerns, contact to parents when a student is failing, and any other documentation that links to all of a student’s teachers.  It sounds fantastic and is a great concept, but with only certain fields that you can edit, and not every imaginable concern listed in a drop down box, it is not the most beneficial tool for me to use.  I update it as best  I can, but in the classroom it doesn’t offer me very many benefits.

Like you, I need to know specifics for what I am doing and how to help the student in my class.  This year I plan to keep a OneNote notebook for my classes that I can easily add to during a small group lesson with my students.  I don’t need to have every student that I teach in my notebook, just those who I have IEP’s, 504’s, and notable concerns about.  This could change throughout the year and that’s okay.  stock-footage-portrait-of-caucasian-young-female-teacher-networking-on-tablet-computer-in-college-libraryI update that student if I need to, but if they have been successful and I don’t have any concerns, no documentation is necessary.  I have a tablet or my phone handy, and I update it during the small group.  No need to transfer notes later or try to file a million little post it notes in folders.

As teachers, we sometimes stress out and put to much extra work on ourselves.  Sometimes we are not clear on what is being asked of us, and instead of seeking clarification we stress and try to do it all.  It’s in our nature, but after reflecting on this topic, I can see a little stress falling off my shoulders this year.  Goodbye stress of documentation, I will not miss you!

Hope you find this helpful.  Please comment and share below.



First Day Back to School

Each year I face the challenge of wanting to engage with students from day one. Unfortunately…

Summer is rapidly coming to an end and I have had to start preparing myself for meeting the new faces that will enter my classroom this year.  It’s a new year with a new set of adventures, challenges, and learning.

Each year I face the challenge of wanting to engage with my students from day one.  Unfortunately, as a middle school 8th grade math teacher, I  do not have many students that walk in loving math, loving school, or even the desire to try and like their teacher on day one.  I have to build report with them and gain their trust.  For me day one needs to be a mixture of rules and procedures, but also a time to show them that math class is going to be a fun safe place to grow and learn together.


Growth Mindset for Students

Every year one of my goals for the first day of school is to help my students to put aside their insecurities about math and take a fresh approach on learning.  I have been searching Pinterest, Facebook, and Teachers Pay Teachers for the right resource to use with my students.  This Growth Mindset bundle, by TeamTom Education, can be used in a variety of ways in many different settings.  In my math class, I plan to use the video portion of the bundle to help my students understand that no matter what their mathematical background may have been in the past, looking forward we are going to “Grow our Math” skills together.  I’m very excited about this resource and look forward to using it very soon.

 Ice Breakers for Day 1

I want my students to participate openly in my class from the first day.  I try to create an environment that is respectful and safe.  Here are a few resources that I use each year to break the ice with my middle school students.

Use Your Noodle

Divide the room into two groups.  Pick one student from each team to be the team captain.  The team captains are given a marble.  No one is allowed to touch the marble except the team captain.  Give all of the other students a piece of a pool noodle.  Place a plastic cup for each team somewhere in the room.  NO ONE CAN TALK!  The marble must go through each person on the teams noodle and into their team’s cup.  If the marble falls out, the team captain must get it and start over.  The first team to get their marble in the cup wins.

There are many ways the students can do this.  I have seen them try to stand close together and make a diagonal line down to the cup and roll it in, or stack their noodles one on top of the other over the cup and drop it in.  In college, we had a team where the captain put the marble through each persons noodle and then went and put it in the cup.  Any approach they use is right.  I use this to model that there are many ways in math to approach a problem, as well as showing them what cooperative learning looks like in my class.  We work better together!

Team Building

I found this Student-Led Classroom Team Building activity on Pinterest last year and my students loved it.  2e5dc-cup2bstack2b1I was amazed how they all worked together to complete the task, and how quickly some of the groups figured it out.

I hope you find some of these resources useful.  Please comment and share below.