Sunday, July 21, 2019

Making Progress

At church this morning, my pastor was preaching about the "Dark Spots" that we all have.  You know, those spots that are easy to identify in other people, but harder to admit in our own lives.  He went on to say that if we wait for the perfect time to serve the Lord or do whatever the task is, we will probably never get to that time.

During this part of the service, I was reminded of a quote that we referenced a lot in my first AVID class and its application to my life currently:

I am about to start my 23rd year in the classroom and to be honest, I thought I would have it down by now.  In fact, hubby and I had this discussion a few days ago about imposter syndrome and how much we didn't know at the start of our careers.  I look back on my early years and remember feeling more "with it" than I do now.  I thought I was progressive, a go-getter, when really, I just didn't know what I didn't know. :)  Then I found blogs and Twitter and all things MTBoS and now I know what I don't know and it sometimes leaves me feeling inadequate.  But when those feelings come, I try to remember the quote above because I'll never "be there" but I'm definitely closer than I was 23 years ago or even 23 hours ago and that progress toward the goal is the important thing.

As my pastor said this morning, we can't focus on the dark spots only and ignore the good, instead we have to focus on the good and work on improving the dark spots.  

Thanks to each one of you that help me daily to improve and to be closer than I was yesterday.

Monday, July 15, 2019

#Made4Math - Organization for the Win

How is it Monday already???  Actually - how is it mid-July already???

The summer is zooming by.  We've had a few days of pleasant weather, so I have spent way too much time relaxing on the patio and not enough time thinking about my to-do list!  School starts in one month and I have yet to send anything to the Copy Shop!  EEK!

But that's okay... at least I got a few things done this week to help me get organized for the new year!

Made4Math Project #1 - AP Binders
Last year, my district adopted new textbooks, so I needed to do some re-organization of my AP Resources.  I suspect some of this will be in the new AP classroom as well, but I am a paper person for planning, so I needed to do it myself :)

The photo on the left is one I shared on Twitter.  I took all of the old AP MC exams, labeled them by year and chapter, wrote the answer on the back, and cut them apart to file into sheet protectors by chapter.  Now, when I'm looking for a quick formative question for a lesson or writing an assessment, I have the older MCs all filed by topic! :)

Made4Math Project #2 - Geometry Rich Problems
So last year, I was determined to do more Rich Problems in my Geometry class and to be honest, I *did* do more than I had the previous year.  I even wrote a blog post last year about how I planned to organize and use the rich problems I had found.  But then, life happened and I didn't quite follow through the way I should have.  I knew I had to try something different this year or it would be another "out of sight, out of mind" situation.

So it was time to bust out my laminator and get to work!  FYI - PPT Hack - if you set your PPT Slide to be 8"x12", then print two to a page, you get lovely 4x6 notecards :)

Now my Geometry problems are printed, laminated, and sorted by chapter so they are easier to use when planning lessons!  YAY!

So what did you make this week???

Monday, July 8, 2019

#Made4Math - Homework and Exit Tickets

Yesterday, on Twitter, several references to the #Made4Math blogging challenge came up.  Years ago, we had a summer challenge to help keep us motivated during the summer on tackling that never ending to-do list!  I am the world's worst at wasting my summer away and then regreting it when August comes, so Made4Math was a great way to try to get little things out of the way before school started again.  :)

Fast forward a few years and I still struggle with motivation, so I'm going to *try* to do some Made4Math posts this summer!

M4M #1 - Homework and Exit Tickets Form

Last summer, one of my #EduRead books was Grading Smarter, Not Harder by Dueck and I blogged about a daily homework check (see post here).

Overall, I *really* liked the idea of a daily homework check because it gave some accountability to my students and it let me keep track of how many problems they got right / wrong.

However, the format from last year was somewhat limiting, so I had to have different forms for my Geometry students (where HW is usually 10 problems or fewer) and my Stat students (where HW is usually 1 problem with multiple parts).  Also, there wasn't a place to keep track of which problems they had attempted versus those they got correct. 

I knew I needed to make a change this year because we are going back to a traditional 6 period day, 5 days a week versus the modified block schedule we've had for the past several years.  I needed to figure out a way to get 5 days onto the paper, yet still have plenty of room to write without killing tons of trees.

I ended up with a half sheet with the front being the homework check (seen above) and the back being boxes for an exit ticket.  I haven't quite decided how I want to structure the 6th box at the back, but it seemed like a more "square" rectangle gave my students more flexibility with an exit ticket than the longer rectangles seen on the front.  Click here to download document

My biggest issue now is trying to figure out how to best fit in the time to go over HW, but I do want the students to know I value it and my Stat kids this past year really liked having the space to ask questions and write themselves notes each day.

M4M #2 - AP Free Response 

There are a ton of resources out there now for AP Stat, which means it can get a bit difficult to keep track of everything!  I try to include Free Response problems whereever I can, but sometimes I forget which ones I have already used and there are some great problems that I honestly forget to use!

I decided to type up a quick reference of the released exam questions, with a super short descriptor and a space for me to jot down some notes.  There are several documents like this already out there on the AP Teacher Community that align the questions to textbook chapters, but in general, I just needed to be able to find the "Tiger Shrimp" problem or the "Blocking Trees" problem quickly, so the descriptors might not make a ton of sense to you. :)  But, here's the document in case you want it!

M4M #3 - Weekly Planning Page

No summer is complete without a revision of my binder!  Last year, I did a big revision (see post here), and while the printed version was absolutely gorgeous, I didn't use it as often as I should.  Part of the reason for not using it well was that the two page spread just took up way too much space on my desk!

So this year, I have changed it - again! :)  I'm going to try a one-page spread to see if I like it any better.  Since we don't have to turn in lesson plans, this planner is just a place for me to jot down what we did each day.  I also needed a place to keep track of my before / after school meetings and our Advisory schedule.  The section for "other" is for me to put things like Drills or when my partner teacher is absent, etc.

I also revised the top to put a weekly habit tracker instead of the habit tracker that I had traditionally put with the monthly calendars.  I am hopeful that this layout will work better for me this year.  While I don't have my entire binder ready to print, feel free to download the above page to make your own.  The font is Shadows Into Light, which you can get here.

I hope you found something useful here today and maybe I'll have more to share next week! :)

Friday, June 21, 2019

The Importance of Closure

The best part of summertime is having time to read!  The worst part of summertime is that I have to wait to put new ideas into action. :)

My first #EduRead of the summer was Hacking Questions by Connie Hamilton and I must say that it did not disappoint at all!  This book was extremely affordable on Kindle and it was worth every penny.  I had originally heard of the Hacking series a few summers back from a podcast, but this was the first one I had read.  Each of the "hacks" is presented in a clear manner, with easy-to-implement strategies, suggestions for overcoming challenges, and a classroom vignette to illustrate the hack in action.  While there were several "hacks" that I plan to revisit when August comes, the chapter that struck me the most was Hack #3 - Punctuate Your Learning Time

For most of us, time is the enemy - especially in the classroom.  There's never enough time to do it all.  From lesson prep to grading to the actual teaching, every single minute seems to be accounted for.  As a result, many of us (including me) see the minute hand inching toward bell time and have to make a decision of what to do - finish up this last little bit, trying to ekk out every possible second or wrap up and do a closure activity?  Way too many times, I have chosen the former option and neglected to properly close out our learning time.

But, after reading this Hack, I am committed to doing a better job this year.  The author shares this  analogy that really struck home for me on the importance of closure:
"Relate it to your own daily routine.  Don't you feel frazzled when you have to leave school quickly and do not have time to process the day and think about tomorrow?  We naturally build in closure to our day, even if we did not finish what we set out to accomplish."  
I honestly had never related closure in the classroom with my personal closure of the day, but it makes perfect sense!  When something happens and I'm rushing around after school to get to a meeting or whatever, I just feel "off".  What if my students feel the same way at the end of our lessons?  Have I given them the processing time they need to effectively summarize their learning and move the day out of working memory?  Have I created problems for myself and other teachers in the future by not giving students time to make necessary connections?

After reading this Hack, I am more committed to intentionally creating closure opportunities in my classroom to "pull the lesson together, assess the learning, and help to set it in the students' minds."  This may be through exit tickets at the end of class or other processing strategies throughout the lesson, but either way, I must make the choice to properly punctuate my learning time because according to the author:
" is crucial that we use the limited time to maximize learning.  Five more minutes of engaging in a task are not as likely to impact students as five minutes of reflection."
I don't know about you, but that's powerful...

For more information on this book and its author, includings a ton of free printables for the classroom, visit the Hacking Questions website!

What are your favorite closure strategies / prompts?

Thursday, June 20, 2019

What a Spring!!!

The years go by so much faster as I get older...  I knew it had been a while since I blogged, but I didn't realize that it had been 8 months!  Wowzers!

This school year was pretty good overall, at least until the end - and what an end it was!  Since Spring Break, we have had over 27" of rain, most of which came in May and caused wide-spread flooding.  At its highest, the dam upriver was letting out 280,000 cubic feet per second, which did lend itself to some great discussions in geometry regarding volume... 

But our last week of school was a crazy one.  For the first time ever, graduation was cancelled and rescheduled due to tornado warnings.  The following morning, as I was getting ready to leave my house, the sirens sounded again and we had the first ever late start due to a tornado warning.  The teachers were doing our best to conduct class as normal, until the next day when we got an email cancelling the rest of the week / school year due to concerns of our town flooding.  While my students were overjoyed at the thought of no finals, our lobby filled up with pallets of boxes because  of projections that our school would be under several feet of water and we needed to move everything to the second floor.  Thankfully the levees held and those projections did not come true! :)  

Prior to this craziness, my neighbor teacher had been incubating 24 eggs, hoping for them to hatch on finals day and provide some much needed stress relief for anxious students.  While her calculations on hatching day were spot on, there were no students on campus to enjoy them!  

Out of the 24 eggs, 10 hatched with 5 of them being "naked-necked" chickens.  I quickly fell in love with this little black and white cutie that I named Oreo. :)  My neighbor teacher was going out of town for the first part of summer, so thankfully one of my family friends was able to take in the 10 chicks and raise them.  Oreo is much bigger now, but still a cutie!

Memorial Day came and went and our last teacher workday was upon us.  I have *never* left my room in such disarray as you see here, but the threat of flooding was still there and we were asked to get everything out of the bottom cabinets and put them onto the desks.  I tried to keep it as organized as I could so that when we got the all-clear, I could easily put things back.  It actually took me about 2 hours to get everything back into place once the flooding threat was over and now my room looks like it has been properly shut down for the summer! :)

Now that school is officially over, I've stayed fairly busy.  I've gone to the zoo, done some math, read a couple of books, spent time with friends, and participated in our annual staff retreat.  

But speaking of math... I had forgotten how much I enjoyed just playing with math!  This year, for the first time in MANY years, I did not go to the AP Reading.  Instead, I spent some of the time at a Math Teachers' Circle Immersion Workshop where I did math just for fun.  One of my favorite sessions was working with Spirographs.  I hadn't played with them in probably 30+ years, so I was overjoyed to see that I did a much better job of controlling the gears than I remembered from childhood.  However, did you know that the big wheel and the gears all have numbers on them?  And from those numbers, you can figure out some facts about the generated image?  I had no idea and of course had never even noticed the numbers way back when! :)

Now that I've gotten the obligatory "where have I been" out of the way, I'm hopeful that I'll get back into the habit of blogging.   That's my goal at least!  

Saturday, October 27, 2018

#MyFavFriday - Fall has arrived!

It's hard to believe that we are two months into this year and already 1/4 of the way done.  Fall weather has finally arrived, which makes it difficult to get dressed, but I am ready for some tall boots and blanket scarves!  I love the Fall colors and the crisp days, but I really hate the lack of daylight... :(  I need my sunshine!

This week was our first week back from Fall Break, so it definitely was a "hamster on a wheel" week as we all adjusted to being back in school.  To top it off, we had a Collaboration Week, which means we had late start on Friday in order to work with our dpartments on pacing, finals, etc.  Overall a busy one, but definitely some good things happened!

My Favorite Lesson of the Week:
We have started Fingerprints in Forensic Science, which is our first foray into "individual evidence".  I love this unit because fingerprints fascinate me.  From the fact that no two fingerprints (so far) have been found to be identical to the different patterns to the mathematical investigations comparing our class to the national - it's super cool!  This year, we have a full-time campus police officer assigned to our school, so he even came to observe and help the students with how to roll prints and make a ten-card.  Next week we'll move on to minutae and dusting prints, which is where the real fun starts!  It can definitely get messy, but so much fun! :)

My Favorite Meal of the Week:
Look at that feast.... and oh my, that pie was to die for!

On Monday morning, I received an email from our football coach inviting me (and some other teachers) to join the team for the weekly team dinner on Thursday night.  In the email, it said that we had been selected by members of the team as a person that had a positive impact on them and on our school in general.  We sat with our host players and after the meal, they introduced us to the team. I have several of the senior football players in AP Stat, so after the meal, we all took a picture together.  I was so honored and so humbled to have been chosen by my kids as a special guest.  I've had the opportunity to represent our school and our district as Teacher of the Year, but those pale in comparison to being recognized and honored by your students, the kiddos that actually see you every day and truly know how much you love and care for them.  It was a bit tough to drive home that night because while it was raining outside, there might have been a few waterworks going on inside my car too... :)

My Favorite Whiteboard Moment of the Week:
Overall, it was a great week with a lot of activities and foldables and laughter and who can ask for anything more?

On Friday afternoon, my kiddos were reviewing for a test by doing stations around the room.  In that class, I have a group of girls that have some absolutely gorgeous writing and have started a business with hand-painted bibles and other gifts.  As they were working a problem near my desk, I overheard them in a discussion of handwriting and after they left, I found this on the board... 

Every Friday, I stand at the door and greet them with a "Happy Friday!!" and a high-five.  This has become one of my favorite traditions thanks to the #MTBoS and Glenn W.  :)

On that note.... Happy Friday and Happy Weekend to you all! :)

Thursday, October 18, 2018

My 1st Quarter Report Card

Back in early August, I blogged about my goals for this school year.  As the first quarter comes to a close, it's time to do a reflection on how those goals are progressing... :)

Goal #1 - Thinking
Based on the book 'Why Don't Students Like School', I started this year with the goal of having students do more thinking.  Overall, I'm pleased with how this goal is progressing, but I know that I still have work to do, especially as the fatigue of winter sets in.  This goal has mostly been focused in my Geometry classes as the AP curriculum already incorporates this goal through rich problems.  Here are some of the things I've used:

  • Puzzle Place - I started my puzzle table last year in January and while some students knew it was there, most didn't.  This year, I have kids that zoom right to it on Mondays and wrestle with the puzzle throughout the week.  One thing I would like to do is a "Puzzle Master" poster for students to get a star with their name on it when they've successfully solved the puzzle.  I had also thought of making a whole puzzle wall, but that went by the wayside pretty quickly :)
  • Rich Problems - One of the things I worked on this summer was developing a list of rich problems for my Geometry class.  I have used several at this point with some good success.  I introduce most of them with the puzzle mindset and my students have been fairly engaged. 
  • Find the Flub - This one hasn't happened - YET.  However, based on my readings on Formative Assessment, etc, I know this would be a powerful strategy to use, so I need to move it up the priority list.
  • Jo Boaler - I started the year in Geometry with Jo Boaler and some of the work from her Stanford Team.  I really think this set our year off to a good start with regard to thinking skills!

Goal #2 - Vocabulary
Since both Geometry and Stat are vocabulary-heavy courses, I knew this goal was a must-do.  I'm really pleased with how this goal is going so far...
  • Info Sheets - At the beginning of the unit (each quiz for Geo / each chapter for Stat), students receive an info sheet with the learning targets and vocabulary.  They do a vocabulary knowing rating at the beginning of the unit, then again at the end of the unit.  I love when students see their knowledge progressing as they rate themselves!  I don't think I use these info sheets to their best advantage, but I do like it better than what I've done in the past!
  • Vocab Quizzes - This is one addition that I *really* like!  On Tuesdays, our warmup activity is a 'Terms Tuesday', where I give 10 definitions / questions and students write their answer.  I've also used things like "What is the formula for....", which isn't so much vocabulary, but definitely essential information!  I do think I want to modify this a bit next year so that students track their data and compete with themselves.

Goal #3 - Number Sense
Of all my goals, this is the one I'm enjoying the most!  This goal is mostly targeted at my Geometry students, so I need to figure out how to make it more applicable to my Stat kiddos as well.
  • Number Talks - This one is a game changer!  If you haven't read about Number Talks yet, I highly encourage you to do so!  I started the year in Geometry doing these often, but I've slacked off a bit.  I need to get back to it!
  • Mental Math Challenge - One of the first tasks I had my students do was the "4 4s" problem.  Now, each week on Monday, they get 4 random digits and are trying to write expressions to equal the values 1 to 24.  The level of creativity I am seeing in their expressions is amazing!  I need to figure out a way to do some sort of "creative expression" award or sticker or something.
  • 1 to 9 puzzles - My students often get frustrated with these puzzles, but I love the number sense and thinking that happens when I give them a 1 to 9 puzzle and the number tiles.  
  • Estimate, then Calculate - This is an area I still struggle in.  I have not implemented this well and need to look for specific places I can use this strategy.

Goal #4 - Parent Communication
While still not my favorite thing, I am getting better at this one...
  • Email Class - This feature on our gradebook system is awesome, even though I haven't used it as much as I planned.  My original thought was to send a class newsletter to my parents, but yeah, that didn't happen.... Maybe next quarter :)
  • Calling Parents - I have called more parents this year than I probably have in the past 5 years combined!  It's been difficult as I rarely have a time without students in my room, but I'm trying to be proactive, both by calling to celebrate successes and to nip issues before they escalate.  One thing that I did this year that I really liked was that on the back of my student information sheet, I asked students the question of "If I need to call home, who should I ask to speak to?" - This question yeilded some great information about family situations and gave the students the heads up that I woud be calling home!
  • Organization - My goal is to hopefully reach out to every parent this year, so I added a section to my gradebook called "Parent Contact".  Mainly, I just printed a copy of my rosters and it gives me a place to document the date and type of contact, such as email, conference, phone, etc so I can keep track of who I've talked to.

Goal #5 - Feedback and Intervention
This goal is about to get its own blog post as this is part of my official evaluation goal... :)  
  • Homework Reflection - I am *very* pleased with how the Homework Reflection form is going in geometry and I plan to implement it in Stat too.  I have already used that data with parents and students when they have asked about their grades and how to improve.  I've been able to use the data to pull students aside and talk to them about their study habits and the trends I see.  I definitely have some modifications to make, but overall, this is a keeper!
  • Red Flag System - One of my summer reads was Robyn Jackson's "How to Support Struggling Students".  In the book, she talks about intervention and how to put together a "red flag" system.  This is something I want to work on in more detail and hope to have an online book study soon.
  • Processing Feedback - This is still an area of growth for me.  My kids this year have been GREAT about coming in for extra help and really using the feedback I've given them, but I'm not doing as great of a job of providing time to process the feedback and helping them learn how to use it.

Overall - Good things are happening in my classroom and my students are responding positively to my nagging :)  I still have a lot of room to grow but based on the first quarter, I'm excited to see where this year takes us.