Monthly Meal Planning GDoc – My Favorite Friday

Today is going to be a non-math post.  But, it is a list of things that enable me to teach math so it is indirectly related!

I am often asked, “HOW do you do it??” by two types of people.  Teachers with no children and stay at home moms.  I used to be both, so I understand.  Honestly, I don’t know how I do “do it” many days.  I teach full time and have three children who are involved in competitive soccer.  That equates to 8 practices a week at two different fields between the hours of 4:45 – 9:15, as well as games every Saturday and Sunday.  No lie, life = soccer around here.  This means I am out of the house or in transit Mon – Thurs from 4:45 – 9:15 and a large part of Saturday and Sunday.

Laundry can go unwashed for a while as long as I have purchased enough clothes (or we go rumpled).  But, we have to eat.  Three boys playing soccer eat so, much, food.  Plus, even though they pack lunches three times the size of my lunch, they are STARVING when they get home from school.  I used to let them snack when they were little.  But now that they are bigger, a snack is like 3 packets of pretzels, 2 cheese sticks, a yogurt, and they are still starving.  So, I started feeding them dinner when we got home from school.  This helps because it eliminates after school junk and fuels them up better for soccer.  The only downside is that they are hungry AGAIN after soccer, for an entire meal.  Fast food is easy to pick up on the way home, but it is just gross, and unhealthy, and they only like a couple of places.  So, I cook for them.  I love to cook, and I love to cook for my family even more.  But, I don’t get home until 4:15 at the earliest and have to leave around 4:45.  There is just enough time to change for soccer and eat dinner.  But there is no time to make dinner.  So this year, I am going to try to make crock-pot, freezer, or super easy meals from Monday through Thursday.

I feel that the hardest part of cooking is planning WHAT you are going to cook in advance and planning for it.  If you don’t have the ingredients at your house, then you can’t make the meal.  This happened to me often this summer, and was very frustrating!  Enter, my monthly meal planning Google spreadsheet.  It includes a differnet meal every day for four weeks (excluding Friday).  I do not cook, or clean, on Friday.  Each month, I make the same food.  But since we only have it once a month, no one gets tired of it.  To make it even easier, I have put all of the food that I will need into online shopping lists called “Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, and Week 4”.

  • To make my life more manageable, I order groceries online from Harris Teeter.  It only costs about $16 a month and all I do is order online.  They shop for me.  I just pull up and they load my car up with groceries.  It is an amazing service.  The first time you do online shopping it takes a while to add all of your items.  But then it takes so little time – and you can shop at home (or at soccer practice)!

I have entered all of the food that I need to cook for a weeks worth of meals into my Harris Teeter Shopping lists.  So every Saturday I pick the week number, “Week 1”, select ADD ALL and then add it to my cart.  This allows me to automatically order all of the groceries that I need to cook for the entire week in two clicks.  Yes, this took me several hours of time today.  But it will save me many more hours in the future when I am crazy busy with school and soccer.  It is amazing!

Below are just some of my other random favorite things.

Keurig Coffee Pot – No fuss, no mess.  Just turn on the button and make a cup of coffee.  It allows me to have time to make coffee in the am while getting myself and three kids out the door by 7:30am.

Chobani Pineapple Yogurt w Bare Naked Granola and nuts – I eat this when I am on the run (usually breakfast and sometimes even lunch when school starts).  I put the Bare Naked in a ziplock with half a bag of pecans and a package of almonds so I can just spoon it into the yogurt easily.

Buffalo flavored whole almonds – seriously?  tasty and good for you?  These are my go to snack.

Kashi Chocolate coconut chewy granola bars – this is my easy, late morning snack that enables me to watch / talk with students while getting fueled up for more teaching.  They are so yummy and healthy.  Win-win!

G2 – Only 40 calories in a bottle and it just tastes and makes me feel so good after a run.

Many days I do think I’m crazy to do it all.  But I love it all and I can’t imagine giving any of it up!  So, I have to find a way to do it all. 

Google Spreadsheet and the Wiki for Assigning Homework

I used to keep a plan book.  It was ok.  But, I never actually wrote my plans in it bc those squares were too small.  I just wrote down the lesson title and the homework assignment.   As I got busy, I would often forget to write things down it in.  Especially when I made changes in assignments.  The plan book was one more thing to keep up with and drag back and forth to school every day.  The idea was to use the plan book for the next year as a guide.  But I did not refer to it as often as I should have (only about once a unit) because then I would have to take TWO plan books (one for last year and this year) home every night.

Now, I’m all electronic when I plan.  I made a Google Spreadsheet that lists the date, lesson, homework, and any important links the students will need.  I love this way of giving homework, because then students can easily find the links I want them to access.

I then embedded it into my class wiki.  I only embed one week at a time so my students won’t get confused when looking at the whole document.  (It is blank right now because I still haven’t planned week 1 for this year yet – ACK!)

At the bottom, I provide a “6th Math Archives Page” link so absent students can refer back to the previous week(s).

To make things easier for me when updating and going to a new week, I have two separate tabs in the GDoc spreadsheet.   One is the current week and the other is the archive page.

I put the current week’s assignments into the 6th and 7th tabs.  These are the tabs that I had embedded into the class wiki.  6th 2011 is the entire year and it is what I use for the archives.  I start a new tab for each year (you can see the 6th 2010 and the 7th 2010 from two years ago).  This way I have a record of multiple years of plans and homework all in one place.

Read about other teacher’s Favorite Fridays here!

Survey Project – Creativity, Collaboration, and Technology

The “Survey” project is my favorite project of the year because it combines technology, creativity, and collaboration.  This project incorporates three different Google Documents, word, spreadsheet, and presentation (two groups even created a Google Form).  The students create their own survey question and decide how to best display their data.  Students also have the option to work together.  My students love working with each other, being creative, and technology so they are completely engaged throughout the project.

Working individually or in small groups, students created a survey question, then determined their population and their sample.  I created a survey form on Google Docs that they had to duplicate, fill out, and share with me to gain approval for their survey questions.  The Google Document was very useful as I could make suggestions with the “comment” feature while they were working on them.

Once they had approval, they were off to collect data.  I have given them several surveys over the past year using Google Forms and I was very impressed with a couple of groups that created their own Google Form to collect their data.

Students created a Google Spreadsheets to analyze and display their data.  They have used Google spreadsheets in my class before, but have not created their own.  They first made frequency tables and then created a chart of their choice to display their data.

Once their charts were created in a Google Spreadsheet, they inserted them into a Google presentation.  I created a single Google presentation in which they all were to add their charts.  This way, I have all of their results in one place.  I love doing this for two reasons.  Having all of their work in one document is wonderful on presentation day because we do not have to wait for every student to access their own document when it is their turn to present.  It also makes it very easy for me to grade.


 A great result of this project is that I now have one amazing and creative document made by the students to teach with not only this year, but also for future years.  I had the current students come up with two math questions relating to their chart(s), and the answers to the questions on the next slide. This year, students will ask the questions of their peers as they present.  Next year I can use this document full of bar graphs, double bar graphs and pie charts to teach other students.  My current students are very excited that I plan to use their projects to teach next year’s students.  And, I believe that my future students will be more interested in the learning about these charts because they were created by students.  Everybody wins!

My Students were Published in Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School!

We are so excited!  My students’ answers to a “Solve It!” were published in the November edition of Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School.  This is a national publication produced by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.  The students collected data about the number of jeans owned by every student in their class.  Working in groups of three or four, they used Google Spreadsheets to compare their class average to the national average and to do further analysis of the data.  They created graphs to visually present their findings.  They also worked collaboratively on a Google word document to write their analysis of the data.  After they came up with conclusions, they created wiki pages to present their findings.  Their wiki pages were creative and beautifully formatted.  They contained uploaded graphs of their data, detailed analyses, and even some pictures they took with their cameras or computers.

We had already covered the unit on averages when the “Solve It!” question came about.  Therefore, I gave few instructions to the students for this project.  I showed them the question in the article and let them work independently in their groups.  I encouraged them to be creative.  They loved this project and they reported that much of their enthusiasm was due to the freedom they were given.

Check out the wiki pages they created  and read the Solve It! Article.

Jeans Solve It Published

Let’s Get W.I.L.D. – Wiki Independent Learning Day

Yes, apparently I am obsessed with acronyms this summer.  But, when you can make them fun (WILD) and mean something great I just cannot help myself!

I teach 6th and 7th graders.  Middle school is their transition time.  It is when they begin to grow up and become independent learners.  Becoming an independent learner is a corner stone of our school philosophy.  I know that this takes time and can even be difficult at first, especially for students coming fresh out of elementary school.  My goal is for all of my students to move from being dependent upon me for all of their learning, to becoming independent learners.

To help my students achieve independence in their learning, I am going to have designated WILD days this year.  On these days I will have students start on our student created wiki help pages to access websites to work on different concepts.  They can start with concepts in which they are not proficient.  Students that are proficient in most concepts can work ahead so that they will not be bored reviewing concepts they have already mastered.  They will keep an online WILD Log that they create using a Google Doc spreadsheet.  This GDoc will be shared with me so that I can monitor their progress.

I expect that helping students target what they need to work on and finding the best resources will be high maintenance at first.  Eventually however, I would like the students to learn to tailor their own learning.  I want WILD to be interesting and challenging for students of varying ability levels.

Here is what I have for the GDocs WILD Log, but I would love more ideas on how to make the Log (or anything else) better.

Google Docs Spreadsheet “Word Cloud” to Analyze Student Survey

I have always thought that Wordles (or word clouds) were fun and interesting.  However, I have never thought of them as “useful” until today when I read Becky’s Wordle Post.  Inspired, I scoured the net and found out from Free Technology For Teachers that you can create Wordle-like word clouds inside Google Document Spreadsheets!  Google Documents has a “Word Cloud Gadget” that will turn your entire page, or even just select cells, into a word cloud.  You can pick any words that you want to exclude and even chose the number of word that you want to use for your word cloud.

I instantly thought of the anonymous student survey that I gave to my 6th grade class.  I loved reading their thoughts and meant to summarize their answers but did not get around to it.  The Word Cloud was a perfect visual summary of how my students felt about their math class.

Since you can pick any cell in your Google Spreadsheet, I decided to focus on one question, “Please tell me something (or things) that you enjoy that we do in this math class.”  Here is the Word Cloud generated from that question.

I enjoyed seeing the words love, math, and projects.  The projects jumped right out at me!  This is my first time teaching in a project intensive school.  This Word Cloud zeros in the fact that students are feeing a love of math in my class, and it is because of the projects that I have created.  Since my goal is for all students to love math, I obviously need to get busy and create more projects.

My goal for this summer has been to create interesting projects for each unit.  It has been a hectic summer, and I haven’t gotten as far as I would have hoped.  However, I am determined to develop at least one interesting project per unit.  If you have any great projects from 6th grade – algebra I, please include the link in the comments or email me.  After this word cloud, projects are my new number one summer priority.