So you want to be a master teacher?


You've embraced the role of mentoring new teachers and will soon have a student teacher under your wing! Whether you are called "mentor teacher," "master teacher," or "cooperating teacher," you are taking on a meaningful and rewarding role in helping student teachers learn how to thrive and grow in this profession.

While you may have some ideas on how to be a mentor and support your student teacher on this journey, you may be looking for ideas and tools to help along the way. Your support can be crucial to helping them become the best educator possible, and you will hopefully build a lasting relationship as someone they can turn to for advice or ideas.

Jumping into a new school, classroom, staff, and more can be overwhelming for a new teacher. Read on for some tips and freebies that can help your student teacher feel welcomed and at ease, and can help you both establish norms that will leave everyone feeling joyful and inspired by this experience.

1. Relationships are key

As you prepare to welcome your student teacher, keep in mind the world of difference it can make if you prioritize building a positive relationship from the get go. Just as with our own students, your student teachers will be much more comfortable learning from and working with you if you develop a sense of trust and positive leadership.

Start by really putting in an effort to get to know your student teacher. This will not only help them feel welcome, but it can help lay out some differences between the two of you that may need to be accounted for in order to feel like a successful team.

 Are you a morning person, or do you stay late to plan and prep? Do they have family or work obligations before or after school that may put them on a different time track than you? How will you compromise to ensure you still have adequate time to plan and prepare together? This is also the time to set norms and ensure your expectations and understandings of student teacher/mentor teacher roles are on the same page.

Beyond getting to know one another’s schedules and interests, be sure to introduce your student teacher around campus to help them feel comfortable with the people and the layout of the school.

2.Reflection is vital to improvement and growth

Another key component of a master teacher's role in teacher mentoring programs is to foster reflective practice in teaching. Teach your student teacher to be okay with you asking “why” they made certain choices – this does not mean you are saying their choice was a questionable choice; it’s just encouraging them to reflect on decisions they make in and out of the classroom, and to be thoughtful of how those decisions impact their students.

Video record lessons to discuss – yes, it may be awkward, but it really is so much more beneficial for the student teacher to SEE themselves doing the actions you say you observed and to see the things around the room they may not have noticed while “in the moment.” This can be a great tool for collaborative conversations and goal setting.

3. Don’t just evaluate your student teacher; help to teach and train your student teacher

This is very likely only your student teacher’s first or second opportunity to TRY teaching. As mentor teachers, we are effectively an extension of the credentialing courses – everything their courses teach them in theory, we get to support in practice. That also means providing feedback and – here’s the key part- support to help our student teacher learn and grow. When discussing areas for growth,  be sure to also give your student teacher some strategies to try in that area. Then, observe them again to follow up on whether they’ve improved or whether you two need to brainstorm some other strategies.
Just like in our own classrooms, we have to assume the need to model and teach even the most basic strategies and approaches. While some student teachers will come with a knack for certain aspects of teaching, be sure you aren’t assuming they know HOW to lesson plan and HOW to execute specific management tools or strategies. Model and hand-hold a bit at first, then as they grow and are ready, be sure to give them freedom to try lessons in their style. Try to avoid stepping in during their lessons unless absolutely necessary, but make notes of observations to reflect on later.

Remember, they will enter your class as a new teacher, and leave your class…still as a new teacher!

It’s OKAY if you didn’t impart #allthewisdom and “build the whole car,” so to speak – you helped them grow and provided a solid foundation for their own journey into teaching. For that, YOU ROCK!!

Click here to download a set of freebies to help you start your journey as a master teacher.

Need something more in depth? Click here to view my full Mentor Teacher Toolkit for a student teaching binder on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Summer is time to recharge and reflect

Looking back on your school year to recharge and reset before the year ahead

After pouring so much of ourselves into our classroom and students over the last 180 days, it is SO important that we make the most of our breaks. Using summer to purposefully recharge can help prevent teacher burnout and leave you feeling ready and excited for the year ahead.

While it's tempting to waste the days away with the latest Netflix binge in my jammies, I know I feel much more relaxed when I can get all the clutter out of my head and really make sure I'm prioritizing the things I don't always have (or make!) time for during the school year.

My brain is constantly swirling with activities I want to do over the summer, filling with ideas I have for next year, ruminating on things I goofed on this past school year, or just trying to make a mental list of all the appointments I need to schedule and get to while I actually have some free time! I can't be the only one swamped with a muddled to-do list flashing through my mind, so I thought I'd share these reflection sheets I created.

I'm hoping that if I get the main things out on paper, there will be less swirling around my brain which will allow me to fully relax and enjoy the free time I do have this summer. It will also help me prioritize the ideas I want to prepare for next year, so I go back feeling rested and ready in the fall.

Click here to head to the freebie, and let me know in the comments how you plan to rest, recharge, reflect, and reset this summer. Cheers!!

Welcome TPT Friends!

Welcome to Awesome Anaheim!

Hello TPT Friends!!! I wish I'd thought of sharing this sooner for all you weekenders who've arrived early for #TPTOC17. Nonetheless, here are a few of my favorite things to do around Anaheim, other than the obvious fave, Disneyland! Hopefully these help if you're looking to fill your evenings after TPT, or are sticking around for a few extra days!
  • Come try unique and yummy treats from craft eateries at the Anaheim Packing House, and wash it all down with some great brews at the Anaheim Brewery. One of my favorites at the Packing House is a sandwich from the Black Sheep Grilled Cheese Bar, followed by a chocolate-dipped fresh berry popsicle at Popbar. There are so many great restaurants and treats, though, that it's tough to decide!
"One for a nickel, Two for a dime, Get your beer at Anaheim!"
Anaheim Brewery

  • Check out some Angels Baseball. They're playing the Nationals on Tuesday and Wednesday, then the Red Sox on the weekend. 

  • Get your Boot Scoot'n Boogie on at The Ranch Saloon, and try the fried pickles while you're there! They're closed on Monday and Tuesday, but Sunday is Family Night, Wednesday and Thursday are fun with the DJ and line dance lessons, and there's live music on Friday and Saturday.

  • Visit the shops and restaurants at Downtown Disney. I've put this last, because if I'm sharing local faves, this (understandably!) is more of a tourist spot. I do love it though, and some other teacher bloggers and I will be at ESPN Zone on Tuesday night after the conference. We'd love for you to come say hi and join us for a drink!

I hope you enjoy visiting our little corner of "The OC," and if you're ever back in town, I'd love to show you around even more! If you try any of the above spots, let me know what you think down in the comments! And if you're a fellow SoCal native, what else would you add to this list?!

Mathematical Mindsets Chapter 7

From Tracking to Growth Mindset Grouping

Welcome to Week 7 of our Mathematical Mindsets book study! Chapter 7 addresses a very traditional approach to higher level mathematics, and provides significant research against it. The topic is Ability Grouping. Have you heard of it? Have you experienced it, either as a student or as a teacher? I most certainly have, and Dr. Boaler’s research lines up so well with things that I’ve experienced with ability grouping, and she’s opened my eyes to effects I hadn’t really thought of before.

Dr. Boaler, along with an arsenal of research, argues that ability grouping is detrimental to a growth mindset. Grouping students at an early age into low, medium, and high achieving math classes not only hurts the self-esteem of the students in the “low” group; it also denies them the opportunity to ever achieve certain high-level math courses, since their “remedial timeline” is already mapped out and only reaches so far by the end of high school.

Ability grouping also creates a fixed mindset in the students who are in the “high” groups. If they believe they are naturally good at math, when they eventually come to a point where they struggle, they will be less likely to persevere.

Teaching ALL students to have a growth mindset towards math is key. Dr. Boaler shares several strategies and examples of teaching math to heterogeneous groups in a way that fosters growth in all students and allows students to take multiple pathways of achievement. Below, I share some that I am planning to implement this school year.


Open-ended math tasks

When working with students at a variety of levels, open-ended math tasks are key. These “low floor, high ceiling” tasks, as Dr. Boaler describes them, allow students to build a solid foundation and take the skill to as complex a level as they are willing and able to. I needed some more input on what exactly classifies a quality, open-ended math task, so thankfully Dr. Boaler pointed out a few places to look!

The first is part of the UK’s Nationl STEM Centre, and is a collection of task cards that are designed for mixed-achievement groups. These cards are part of a project called Secondary Mathematics Individualised Learning Experinece, or SMILE! Some of the wording will need to be changed, as they were made for students in London, but I have already found some great resources to use during our first unit on Decimals. I definitely need to remember to change things beforehand, though, or my kids will look at the word form of 0.7 and go “What the heck is “nought point seven,’ Miss G.?!”
I encourage you to visit this website and check out the extensive library of SMILE cards and other STEM resources. It’s free to sign up for login access to download the materials.

Another resource that has yet again proved useful is the YouCubed math website. Below is a link to a perfect example of a “low floor, high ceiling” task, which allows kids to explore different ways of approaching the problem, and allows them to go as in-depth as they are able.




This Ice Cream Scoop problem is also the perfect way to introduce multidimensional values, which Dr. Boaler shares as another key aspect of heterogeneous teaching. Allow for, value, celebrate, and assess multiple ways of thinking about and approaching mathematics! 

Don’t focus solely on performing calculations, but encourage students to “ask good questions, propose ideas, connect different methods, use many different representations, and reason through different pathways” (Boaler 121). And remind students regularly that “No one is good at all of these ways of working, but everyone is good at some of them.” This mindset will set the tone for group work that shares responsibility and is respectful of everyone’s thinking.


Roles and Shared Responsibility in Group Work

Dr. Boaler recommends spending a significant amount of time and effort at the start of the year teaching students how to effectively and appropriately work in groups. She shares many strategies for this, but the ones that I am ready to jump right into are:
  • ·         Work with students to carefully develop group norms of respect and listening

o   Create posters of what students do and don’t like other group members doing when working together. This provides student awareness and ownership over norms that we would give anyhow, such as not letting one person do all the work and tell everyone else the answer, saying things like “this is easy” when it may be confusing to some, leaving people out of discussions, etc.
  • ·         Assign roles for students in groups that allow them to balance the workload and equitably participate. Roles such as Facilitator, Recorder/Reporter, Resource Manager, and Team Captain can categorize specific jobs that must be done and questions that can be asked to stem discussion.
  • ·         When assessing group work, assess only one randomly selected group member’s verbal or written response. If they cannot clearly articulate the way their group found the answer, the group must reconvene and continue discussing until every group member clearly understands the concept. They can let you know that their ready to be reassessed, and you ask the same student to explain. Check out Tried and True Teaching Tools' awesome Role Cards created from the roles Dr. Boaler shares - Kathie did an AMAZING job on these, and I will definitely be using them! 
I am so grateful for this book study, and the way in which this book is opening my approach to teaching mathematics! I hope you will join our conversation here in our blog hop comments, or in our Facebook group at Mathematical Mindsets Book Study Facebook Group{request to join, we’d love to have you!}

If you’re interested in some of the research cited in this chapter, I’ve linked some of Dr. Boaler’s studies below.

Mathematical Mindsets Chapter 6

Mathematics and the Path to Equity

Thanks for joining us for Week 6 in our Mathematical Mindsets book study! This chapter was jam packed with strategies, so I want to jump right in!

The statistics that this chapter opens with are alarming. As we continue to learn with this book, there is no such thing as a good-at-math gene, so I figure, “Why focus on the past?” Women and minority groups have statistically been left in the dust and are underrepresented in higher-level mathematics, so how do we, as teachers today, prevent this from continuing to happen?

I’ve decided to focus this post on Dr. Boaler’s Equitable Strategies, which she shares as “strategies for purposefully making math more inclusive.”


Offer all students high-level content

We need to make sure all students have the opportunity to attain higher-level mathematics courses. Dr. Boaler addresses this in greater detail in chapter 7, so I will hold off on discussing in detail.


Work to change ideas about who can achieve in mathematics

The mindset beliefs held by teachers open or close the pathways for students, and that fixed mindset thinking and teaching is a large part of the reason inequities continue in math and science, for women and students of color (Boaler, p. 102).

Give students the message that you know they can succeed in math. And don’t just say it, actually know in your heart that every single one of your students has the potential to succeed!


Encourage all students to think deeply about mathematics

Girls have a greater tendency than boys to want to understand deeply why methods work, where they come from, and how they relate to other concepts and domains (Boaler 2002b; Zohar & Sela, 2003). When we focus solely on the procedural aspects of mathematics, we are denying the opportunity for deeper, meaningful understanding. The following aspects of successful math teaching can guide us in solving this problem:

Hands-on Experiences – Providing direct interaction with the workings of a concept can greatly increase a students’ conceptual understanding, as well as their ability to form connections to other concepts and disciplines. I began implementing Math Centers in my upper grade classroom last year, and directly saw the benefit of hands-on experiences. Here is are examples of a Fractions center, where students created posters with a variety of models for the concept of dividing a whole number by a fraction:

Project-based curriculum – This year, we finished out our year with Digital Divide and Conquer’s Final Frontier outer space PBL unit, which phenomenally connected many of our math concepts in a project-based, engaging format. Matt has created TONS of great PBL resources, and I highly encourage you to check out his shop:

Curriculum with real-life applications – I try to tie mathematics into our engineering challenges and find other ways to make real-life connections, but this is definitely an area I need to focus my growth on!

Opportunities to work together – A study of Berkeley students in high-level math classes highlighted the importance of working together in mathematics. High-achieving Chinese-American students were observed completing assignments in a collaborative manner, supporting each other’s struggles and working through challenges together. The African-American students were observed completing assignments in isolation, and were quick to give up when struggles arose, because they felt they were just not good at the math. This led to alarmingly high failure rates, but was completely turned around after researchers provided seminars on collaboratively approaching mathematics. The African-American population actually surpassed the Chinese-American population within 2 years of the seminar’s implementation, proving the importance of collaboration and a positive mindset!

I plan on encouraging more collaboration in my math block by continuing centers and really incorporating math talks using the MP’s as often as possible. Angela Watson has a fantastic set of cards with number talk question stems to help us build math discussions, which I’ve linked here:


Eliminate (or at least change the nature of) homework!

I know the topic of homework can lead to heated discussion, because it is so customary to U.S. schooling. There is so much research out there, however, that homework has no impact or a negative impact on student learning. If something is not helping out students’ learning, we should reconsider it and make some changes. If something has been proven to have a negative impact, we should throw it out the window like it’s on fire!

If you want to make the jump into eliminating math homework, here are some resources Dr. Boaler lists as evidence in support of this:
  • Alfie Kohn – The Case Against Homework
  • Sal Khan – The One World School House
  • Various resources from Challenges Success, 2012

If you’re not quite ready to ditch homework altogether, or if your school requires that you assign homework, then Dr. Boaler recommends at least changing the nature of that homework: “Instead of giving questions students need to answer in a performance orientation, give reflection questions that encourage students to think back on the mathematics of the lesson and focus on the big ideas” (page 108). 

I’ve adapted Dr. Boaler’s example of this into the sheet below, which you can download as a freebie to get you started on this homework shift!

Whew! I know this was a long post, but the strategies felt so valuable to me that I felt compelled to inspire other teachers to use them. Which of the above are you willing to give a try? Comment below, and hop through the link up to see other bloggers big takeaways!

Mathematical Mindsets Chapter 5

Mathematical Mindsets Chapter 5

Wowzers…I feel like the last few weeks have been a time warp of wedding planning and summer school, and I have been so bad about keeping my posts a priority, but I must say, all the wedding planning is exciting!! I have a growth mindset that I can improve my blogging though, and I’m determined to stay on track with this book study.
I thoroughly enjoyed Chapters 3 and 4, and I hope you check out some of the other bloggers thoughts on key takeaways. Chapter 3 shared the importance of teaching the beauty and creativity in mathematics, and Chapter 4 shared some fantastic games and activities for building number sense.

Creating Rich Mathematical Tasks

My biggest takeaway from Chapter 5 was that it is in our hands to ensure we are providing our students with rich, engaging mathematical tasks. Dr. Boaler shared 6 cases of mathematics instruction that hooked the learners by piquing their interest and presenting a challenge that they were determined to solve, almost as though the math problems were brain teasers!

My favorite of these was the number talk on 18 x 5 that Dr. Boaler conducted at a staff meeting for a modern, tech-savvy online course startup company, Udacity. As people shared their methods for finding the product, Dr. Boaler drew out the visuals of their thinking on the whiteboard table. She shares that the buzz of excitement in that room, and in any of our math classes when experiencing a task like this, is that “most people…have never realized numbers can be so open and number problems can be solved in so many ways.”
So how do we incorporate this magic and wonder into our elementary and secondary classrooms?!

3 Tips to implement:


Ask the question before teaching the method. (pg. 81)
Dr. Boaler acknowledges that most of us are provided a curriculum from which to teach. She spends so much time in this chapter, however, giving examples of how we can modify the WAY in which we introduce the concepts so that kids have a brain teaser/math challenge approach to spark curiosity. Dr. Boaler suggests giving the students a challenging problem that incorporates the concept in a real, meaningful way, without first telling the students the process to solve it. Give them time to try things, brainstorm, and discuss first. Doing so will make the introductions of formulas and algebraic properties so much more meaningful for the kids once we do introduce them.


Open math tasks to encourage multiple methods, pathways, and representations. (pg. 77)
Find ways to open up math problems to multiple avenues of success, such as the 18 x 5 number talk. I can’t wait to revisit my math curriculum and see where I can do this, and I am definitely thinking of starting the year with number sense activities like this. I think these are PERFECT ways to introduce and begin using the CCSS Math Practices.


Add visual components.
Visualizing our thinking as well as the thinking of others, and discussing the models, is so valuable to our understanding of complex mathematics concepts. The more we can provide this for our kids, the better!

Thanks for sticking with me! I hope you can apply some of these strategies to your teaching to help make math more exciting and meaningful for our kids! Don’t forget to check out the other thoughts in the link up below, and please comment and share how you might incorporate these strategies! I’d be particularly interested in any 5th grade/upper elementary insights!!

Mathematical Mindsets Chapter Two

The Power of Mistakes and Struggle

Welcome to Week Two of our Mathematical Mindsets book study!

The title of this chapter immediately had me hooked, because who hasn’t made mistakes in math class, right?! I remember being embarrassed by my mistakes in elementary school, and I was afraid to share my answers for fear of having done the problem wrong. As a teacher, I work hard to make sure I instill confidence in my students, letting them know it’s okay to make mistakes. This chapter has definitely armed me with some research to back that idea. Even better, it shows that mistakes are actually GREAT for learning!!! What could be better than that?

Dr. Boaler shares current brain research that speaks volumes to the power of mistakes. Every time we (or our students) make a mistake, whether we realize we’ve made one or not, our brain sparks and grows. Our brain actually grows MORE when we make a mistake than when we get an immediate correct answer. Revisiting our mindset ideas from last week, brain studies show that this electrical spark and growth is even greater in people who have a growth mindset about their mistakes, versus those with a fixed mindset. So, growth mindset = growth in our brains!

What was my big takeaway from Chapter Two?

Stop making math about correct answers!! As mentioned above, I encourage mistakes as part of the learning process and try to make my students feel comfortable about their mistakes. I am totally guilty, however, of drawing the smiley-face 100% on math tests and praising those high scores. This chapter made me revisit my philosophy on math test scores. It’s inspired me to cheer for the mistakes rather than the correct answers, and constantly remind students that it is our mistakes that grow our brains! One quote that continues to jump out at me is on page 13:

My goal is to review my math curriculum (which is very much a “correct answer, all or nothing” type of program) and plan for ways to shift into a mistake-centered math class. I feel like the CCSS Mathematical Practices and positive class discussions around mistakes can definitely help with this, and I’m excited to see how it transforms the mathematical mindsets in my classroom!

3 tips to implement:


Design and teach an activity that reframes mistakes and their value. Explicitly teach kids that mistakes are what grow our brains. Dr. Boaler shares a few on pages 15 -17, and Pinterest is filled with a plethora of Growth Mindset teaching ideas.


Use the “favorite mistakes” teaching strategy from page 17. Highlight your “favorite mistakes” from student work as a discussion point for the class. Make this such a common practice that students aren’t embarrassed to have their mistakes highlighted, but are proud that their brain is growing! Keep in mind that the mistakes should be conceptual, not numerical, so that the process is discussed, not the calculations.


Give challenging work that provokes deeper thought processes, invites mistakes, and allows for discussion. Don’t give “easy to answer, easy to get right” questions. Challenges grow our brains, so bring ‘em on!!

I am so hooked already, and am already brimming with excitement to change up my math class this year! I can’t wait to keep reading and discussing with you all. Let’s keep the discussion going in the comments below, and hop on through the blog links to read other great insights from chapter two.
See you next Thursday for Chapter 3!