Friday, August 11, 2017

Using #MyFavFriday for Accountability

Last week, I blogged about my goals for the 2017-18 school year, which includes (in no particular order):

 - The use of VNPS
 - Asking better questions
 - Utilizing Formative Assessment techniques more effectively
 - Blogging more

A few weeks ago, at the end of #TMC17, I randomly came across 3 references to the #MyFavFriday blogging challenge, all in one day!  When I mentioned it on Twitter, Lynn responded:


Since then, I've been pondering.  Originally, #MyFavFriday started as an extension to the "My Favorites" portion of Twitter Math Camp (TMC), where people would share their favorite resource, activity, lesson, recipe, pretty much anything!

But, I'll be honest... I struggled.  It was hard to come up with a new "favorite thing" every week!  So when Lynn suggested bringing it back, I wasn't sure.

Until I wrote my goals post for the MTBoS Sunday Funday blogging challenge.  And that's when it hit me.  I can use #MyFavFriday as a weekly reflection tool as an accountability tool for my goals!!

So, starting next Friday, which happens to be my first day with students learners, I'm going to try to blog about:

  • My favorite learning moment of the week
  • My favorite use of VNPS that week
  • My favorite exit ticket prompt (and response)
  • My favorite Formative Assessment technique and how I used it
  • My favorite (or least favorite) question that I asked the students
  • My favorite engagement strategy
  • My favorite #teach180 photo of the week (I'm trying out Instagram this year!)
I'm really excited about a way to really help myself reflect on the week and hopefully to see my progress with my goals.  

Feel free to join me in sharing your favorite moments of the week! 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

First Day Plans 2017-18


Just a reminder that the #MTBoS Sunday Funday challenge is back!  This is a weekly blogging prompt that is hosted over at Julie's blog and this week's theme is "First Day / First Week Plans"

Every week, Julie will push out a new topic, you blog about it and submit your blog post using this Google Form.  On Sunday, there will be a huge list of awesome blogs to go read! :) YAY!

As always, this is a no pressure blogging challenge, so if you don't feel like blogging, that's okay!  But since one of my yearly goals is to blog more, this is a great way to get myself back into the groove!


Next week starts my 20th year of teaching.  OMG! Where did time go??  There's no way that I'm in year 20, I'm still just a young whipper-snapper, right?  (Said as my knees start to creak and I grumble like an old curmudgeon.)  I officially start on Monday, but I've been up there off and on for the past few weeks working on my classroom.  Our kiddos report next Friday... eekkk!  I have *so* much lesson planning to do!

This year, I will have 3 preps:  AP Statistics (Year 18);  Forensic Science (Year 6); and Geometry (Year ?? but really year 1 again.. last time I taught it was 2008 or so!)

All Classes:
On Day 1, I'm definitely a fan of getting my students to work right away on math and critical thinking.  Since we start school on a Friday, it's a great way to get them started with our first High Five Friday of the year!!!

I tend to have big classes and I'm horrible with names, so I have my kids make name tents.  I originally stole this idea from attending (many) AVID summer institutes and workshops over the years.  Each student has a piece of cardstock that they fold "hot dog" style and the following instructions are on the board:


While they are working on their name tents, I go around and greet each student individually to help me take attendance and learn to pronounce their name.  This also gives me an opportunity to look at what information they have chosen to share.

With AVID, the inside of the name tent is printed, but I just have my students draw lines, mainly so I can save on my copy count :)  These name tents serve as my exit tickets each day as well as my Visible Random Grouping for the first week of school.  Each day, I respond to the students, then shuffle the name tents and toss 4 on each table.  Super simple! :)

AP Statistics:
After the name tents are made, it's time to dive into some statistics.  For the past 8 years or so, I've started the same way - the story of Kristen Gilbert.  Many years ago (2008 maybe?), I was shopping along in Borders (which hasn't even been in existence since like 2011), I ran across a book titled "The Numbers behind Numb3rs".

Like many math teachers, I enjoyed the Numb3rs TV show, so I quickly purchased the book and started reading.  Low and behold, the 2nd chapter was entitled "Fighting Crime with Statistics 101".  This chapter quickly grabbed my attention and I knew I had to build a lesson out of this story.

I immediately contacted Hedge, who was also teaching AP Statistics at the time, and we collaborated on a first day lesson, you know that whole 'hook em with a story' idea. :)

Over the years, I've contemplated doing a different activity, but I always end up coming back to Ms. Gilbert... :)


Geometry:
With Geometry, my plans are a bit more fluid.  I haven't taught Geometry in many years and I'm not quite sure what to expect.  Right now, I have a lot of mini activities, all stolen from the MTBoS planned for them:
  1. My classroom is always set up in groups and we change those groups often.  After their name tents are done, I plan to start with Sara Vanderwerf's 100 numbers activity in order to start that discussion on what makes effective group work.
  2. Then, each group will get a deck of cards to do Sarah Rubin's 31-derful activity.  I've used this activity as a first day activity in Intermediate Algebra as well as a time filler in Pre-Calculus and it's always a hit.  This encourages critical thinking, communication, and some low-floor math.
  3. If there is time remaining, Julie (@fractionfanatic) posted some awesome puzzles this week from @1to9puzzle, so I quickly started following that twitter account.  Each day, they post a new challenge and I definitely plan to use these as time fillers over the year!


Sadly, this is about as far as I've gotten on my lesson plans! :)  Now I'm off to figure out day 2! :)

Thursday, August 3, 2017

All the Feels!!! A love letter to the #MTBoS

Dear People of the MTBoS,

Last night, the @ExploreMTBoS group tweeted out a few challenges, including this one:


There are so many people that I want to thank, but I'm so afraid I'm going to forget someone!  Every single teacher that I've interacted with over the past 9 years via the MTBoS (Math Twitter Blog-o-Sphere) has made an impact on me.  There are some that have become my closest and dearest friends and I can't imagine my life without them.  There are some people that I've only talked to once or twice, but they've impacted me as well.  When people talk about the awesomeness that is the MTBoS and that TMC is a 'family reunion', they really aren't kidding.


The group of math professionals (teachers and non-teachers, coaches, administrators, etc) that make up the MTBoS are the most amazing Professional Learning Network that anyone could ever hope for.  These people *get* me and I love them for it.

If you have ever been on the fence about tweeting or blogging or jumping into a conversation, please let me encourage you to #pushsend.  This group of people are just amazing.  I know for someone new, this PLN might seem difficult to navigate, but Beth (@algebrasfriend) said it best...


The people of the MTBoS are my friends.  Those friendships started out in the virtual world, yes, but that doesn't make our friendship any less real.  For example, Beth is an amazing friend, always supporting me, whether that's meeting up for dinner when I pass through town, sending me books for my classroom, even volunteering to go to Half Price Books to search for a book I was looking for.  

The people of the #MTBoS were there when I lost my sister to cancer, they've been there when I have struggled with issues personally and professionally, they moved from "virtual" friends to "real life" friends when TMC12 was born.  They (and if you are reading this, you are part of 'they') are more than friends, the people of the MTBoS are my family.

Sometimes Often I struggle to #pushsend.  But then a reminder comes about why I do what I do.  Why I'm a part of this amazing group of educators.  This morning, I opened up my blog and saw this:


I'll be honest - I have no idea who left this comment.  I clicked on the name but the "About Me" page was blank.  But I want them to know how much their comment impacted me, about the tears that came to my eyes.  (It also reminded me that I really need to update my Blog Roll!)  When I open my blog to write, it's hard.  I blank out.  My goal this year is to blog more, but it can be tough.  The insecurities, the 'imposter syndrome', they just boil up and make it challenging to #pushsend.  My contributions to this amazing community pale in comparison to what I've received over the years.  The friendships, the confidants, the laughter, the joy, the tears, the learning - it's so hard to put into words what this community means to me.

But I have to agree with the last statement of the comment the most.  I am forever thankful to the #MTBoS.  I truly am a better teacher because of each and every one of you.  

Love forever,
Me :)

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Goals for 2017-18

For the past several years, I have done an August blogging challenge, but this year, I just didn't have it in me.  However, I'm super excited that the #MTBoS Sunday Funday challenge is back!  This is a weekly blogging prompt that is hosted over at Julie's blog and this week's theme is "Goals"

Every week, Julie will push out a new topic, you blog about it and submit your blog post using this Google Form.  On Sunday, there will be a huge list of awesome blogs to go read! :) YAY!


Traditionally I don't make make New Year Resolutions in January because my new year comes in August as the start of a new school year.  I don't know if other teachers feel the same, but that's what works for me :)

Here's my Start - Stop - Continue for my 2017-18 goals :)

I want to START:

  • Using Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces (VNPS) in my classroom.  I have read the research and really feel convicted on this one.  That's not to say that I don't feel scared as all get out, but I want to set a goal to try this at least once per unit.
  • Asking better questions.  Pam presented on this during TMC and it was part of several of the Formative Assessment books I read this summer.  I have printed off several question stem pages based on recommendations from my Twitter pals.  My goal is to use these question stems while I am lesson planning to help me develop my questioning skills.
  • Being more involved in the Math Twitter Blog-o-Sphere (MTBoS).  This online teacher community has been my family for 8 years now.  However, for the past few years, I've pretty much kept to myself due to a variety of reasons and this just needs to stop.  I am a better teacher when I'm involved in the MTBoS, so my goal is to blog at least once a week with Sunday Funday and to be involved in the #geomchat and #statschat on Twitter.


I want to STOP:

  • Trying to "rescue" my students.  There's a lot to be said about productive struggle and if I am trying to use rich tasks and VNPS, I need to let students have that struggle, to really own the math.  I am hoping the better questioning will help with this as well.  
  • Eating lunch in my room.  I used to eat with other teachers and we had a great time.  However, last year, the environment in the lunch room was too politically charged, so I just stopped going.  I miss the fun, light-hearted conversations that we used to have, so I need to focus on "being the change."  My goal is to eat lunch with my colleagues at least 3 days a week to give myself a break from my classroom.



I want to CONTINUE:

  • Learning more about effective Formative Assessment techniques.  This was the focus of most of my summer reading, which I've blogged about a few other times.  My goal is to integrate at least one FA technique per day to inform my teaching and to teach my students how to use it for their learning.
  • Working on my personal health.  Over the past few years, I've gotten busy and combined with stress, did not prioritize my mental, emotional, and physical health.  This summer, with the help of #fitbos17 and some encouraging quotes that continually run through my head, I've been able to lose about 15 pounds.  My goal is to lose about 10 more pounds and I know I can do it!
  • Using Interactive Notebooks (INBs) and the Make It Stick strategies in my class.  I have noticed so much more content retention since utilizing these strategies!
  • High Five Fridays!  This simple technique is really a game changer when it comes to your classroom culture.  If you haven't tried it, I highly encourage you to just give it a shot.  I resisted for the first year because I am an *extremely* introverted person, but I promise you that it's worth it!


What are your goals for 2017-18?

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Why Blog?

Prior to #TMC17, there was an interesting discussion on Twitter about the future of blogging as it relates to the #MTBoS.  Then, during TMC, there was quite the debate on the #MTBoS hashtag.  As part of that debate, several people mentioned that they weren't quite sure where they fit into the MTBoS because aren't bloggers.

The timing of these two discussions was interesting to me.  Blogging is a struggle for me.  I will have 20 ideas floating in my head, I'll even write them down, but when I click "New Post", all of those thoughts just disappear.  Or worse, I'll type up a post and quickly delete it because it just sounds lame in my head.  

At TMC17, one of the keynote speakers, Carl Oliver challenged the attendees to just #pushsend.  

That's scary for me.  Maybe it's scary for you too.  And that's okay... but still, #pushsend

I didn't attend TMC17.  In fact, I went to my mom's for a few days to try to get away from #TMCjealousycamp and FOMO. :)  But even then, the #MTBoS was with me.  I listened to the Mathed Out podcast on my travels and one of the episodes was Julie and "Why Blog".    (If you've not listened to the Mathed Out podcast - go listen... it's a good one!)

It's after my bedtime, so maybe this post won't make sense, but all of these things - the podcast, the keynote, the Twitter discussion / debate - all of them have twisted into my head and I just had to write it down....  

Because I do think that blogging has a fundamental role in the MTBoS and its future growth.

From a historical standpoint, blogging is ultimately how I figured out that I wasn't crazy.  There were other teachers out there that were passionate about teaching and learning and math and how to best teach math.  I wasn't crazy for spending all of my time thinking of activities and reading educational books and literally having teaching as a profession AND as a hobby.  I read Dan and Kate and Jackie and others well before I started on Twitter.  Then, through Twitter, I could have real time conversations to hash out the ideas they presented in their posts.  That rocked my world.

But from a current place, the medium of Twitter is too fluid.  I love Twitter, don't get me wrong (and I think 50K+ tweets would agree with me.  But, Twitter is limited by 140 characters.  Often a great idea will get tweeted and this amazingly rich conversation will follow.  I will often favorite the tweets, might even email some of them to myself, but most often, I follow up to ask if the author has blogged about it in more detail.  Why?  Because Twitter is like drinking from a fire hose.  In the space of hours (or even minutes), great ideas are gone, washed down the river by other ideas.  You reach out, you try to grasp it, and sometimes you can.  But not always.  Blog posts however, are longer, more detailed, more permanent in the vast space we call the MTBoS.  Blog posts serve as a record of where you are, where you've been, and where you're going.  You can reflect on your professional growth, you can remind yourself of that great idea you had 5 years ago, it's your own personal yearbook of your journey.

So why do I blog?  I blog for me mostly.  Or at least I like to think I do.  But I blog for you too.  Because to be honest, we all like to know that we aren't just yelling into the black void.  But it's mostly for me.  Mostly to remind myself of where I've been, what ideas I've had, what worked well and what didn't.  Maybe an idea helps you out too, maybe it sparks an idea, maybe it doesn't.  But that's okay.

Maybe you're a blogger that posts every day like my hubby.  Maybe you're a blogger that hardly ever posts like me.  Maybe you're not a blogger at all, but want to try it.  Maybe you just want to read blogs, maybe you don't.  Maybe you tweet a lot, maybe you've never tweeted at all.  Maybe you're trying to figure out where you fit into this crazy place we call the #MTBoS.  

Whatever your story, please, just #pushsend

Monday, July 17, 2017

Anxiety Sets In... and a #Made4Math


For me, the month of July seems to zoom by and before I know it, the back-to-school nerves start setting in.  This weekend was a time of school supply shopping, blog reading, pinterest searching, and saving tons of ideas for next year.  

I officially report 4 weeks from today, although my building is the only one on campus that isn't under construction, so that's a bit nerve-wracking for my colleagues in other buildings!  At least I can go up and work in my room if I choose to.  

Today was a day of little projects and organization.  I didn't get anything officially finished, but here's what I worked on:

In no particular order...

- Printed off 80 protractors on transparency sheets (10 per page)
- Printed off my new GEOMETRY agenda board header 
- Printed off my new Geometry binder spine labels
- Printed off my new table folder labels 
- Cut out all the Contact Paper to go over said folder labels
- Created, printed, and laminated new table bucket labels

Still to do from these projects...

- Cut apart those protractors
- Laminate the GEOMETRY header
- Adhere the table folder labels with the contact paper
- Adhere the table bucket labels
- Switch over from the old table buckets
- Test out the "whiteboard" paper that I'm trying to straighten

There are so many things left to do that I haven't started on!  I am a fairly organized person by nature, but with 160+ students, I have to figure out some new strategies for keeping up with the paper trail, staying on top of INB handouts, etc.  

Part of today was just sitting in my classroom, staring at the wall and trying to wrap my head around all that needed to get done in the next four weeks.  (OMG - ***4*** weeks!!!  EEKKKK).  I don't know about you, but I love to-do lists, so when I'm overwhelmed, I often have a tendency to create a new cute to-do list to help me stay organized. :)  (I know.. what a great use of my time today, right???)  I forgot to take a photo of it, but I printed it on bright yellow paper, laminated it, and dug into my stash of fine tip dry erase markers to help me make a list. :)


It's nothing fancy, but if you want a copy, feel free to download it here :)


Friday, July 14, 2017

Formative Assessment from a Student Perspective

Yesterday, I posted the first part of a book review on Transformative Assessment by Popham.  As I said then, I'm only halfway through the book, but Chapter 4 really deserved its own post.

Popham believes in 4 levels of Formative Assessment:
   - Level 1: Teachers' Instructional Adjustments
   - Level 2: Students' Instructional Adjustments
   - Level 3: Classroom Climate Shift
   - Level 4: Schoolwide Implementation

So far, I've only read about Level 1 and Level 2 assessments.  Level 1 assessment is what we are probably most familiar with - how formative assessment techniques can help teachers change or alter their instructional methodologies in order to improve student learning.  Level 2, though, is pretty powerful as well.  In fact, I originally planned to post about Level 2 assessment on yesterday's post, but then decided it was so powerful that it deserved a post all of its own. :)

According to Popham:
"Formative Assessment exists for exactly one reason:  to enhance students' learning"
Throughout this book, I keep thinking, "Wow! I've never thought of it like that!" and the quote above is just another example.  If my goal is to enhance student learning then obviously I'm going to do what I can do from a teacher / instruction standpoint, but I also need to make sure that I am doing all I can do to empower my students to take control of their learning.  To do this, Popham argues that students need to be taught how to use formative assessment data to make their own personal instructional adjustments in their learning tactics in order to maximize the effectiveness of those tactics.

Again, a few quotes from Chapter 4 of the book followed by my own thoughts:

  • On student adjustments:  (Paraphrased) If one of the goals of FA is for students to play an active role in making sound decisions on how / if / when to adjust their learning techniques in order to be more successful, then students must know the end goal *and* the standards by which they will be judged. 
    • Prior to this book, I've never really thought about how students can use FA data to help themselves as learners.  Like most teachers, I've always heard FA described more from the perspective of "informing instruction", as in letting teachers know the level of mastery of their students.  However, based on this book, I am in the process of redefining my thoughts on FA.  For some reason, when I read this part of the book, I kept envisioning a student behind the wheel of a boat headed to shore.  In order for the student to be able to plot a course correction, they have to know: 1) where they are going / headed (aka the end goal) and 2) they have to know how far off the mark they are.  This illustration helps me visualize what Popham is referring to, but it's also rather convicting to me.  I can't say that I'm very good about always letting students know explicitly either one of these items. This really gives me a lot to ponder, both figuring out how to be better at sharing the end goal with students and by providing them clear guidelines for mastery.  

  • On orientation of students:  "Teachers who choose to install Level 2 formative assessment in their classrooms must make a major commitment to readying their students to get the most out of this approach."
    • As a student, I don't recall many teachers really talking about how to learn and definitely not about how to determine which learning techniques were best for me and how to adjust those techniques.  As a teacher, I know I have not had that discussion with my students, so I need to be more explicit this year in explaining to my students the WHY behind formative assessment activities, not just from a teacher standpoint, but from a student standpoint as well.  For example, one activity that I do early on in the year is a card sort where each group is given a set of 20 or so scenarios and asked to read the problem and determine the type of sampling method that is described.  Due to the nature of the activity, I probably will not know whether the group is "right or wrong" on every single card, BUT, a student can use that activity to help them decide personally if they know the sampling methods or whether they need to adjust their study techniques to better differentiate between the various methods, which is the very definition of Level 2 formative assessment.

  • On turnaround time:  "Having promised to get such building-block assessment information to students, a Level 2 formative assessment teacher must deliver this information to students as soon as possible after assessing those students."
    • Whew... talk about something easier said than done! :)  Turn-around time is the bane of my existence.  With class sizes of 30+, it can be very difficult to provide quality feedback on a regular basis and I'll be honest that I am not a huge fan of MC items for formative assessment.  Some activities I use, like the cards described above, are fairly easy in terms of turn-around time because students know immediately how they are doing.  This is something I need to work on this year.  In the book, they also talk about ways to provide optional items for students to use to self-monitor, such as answer keys available, practice quizzes / tests, etc.

  • On student choice: "The role of the teacher here is to set forth suggestions so students will be able to arrive at better choices.  As always, if students choose not to adopt the teacher's suggestions regarding learning tactics, then the teacher simply swallows hard and moves forward."
    • I think this will be the hardest part of implementing Level 2 formative assessment, but the most necessary.  The key thing is that students will need to buy into the benefits of FA and to assume responsibility for learning how they learn best.  The author emphasizes that it has to be student choice in adjusting their learning tactics and we have to allow them the autonomy to make that choice (or not).  In order for our students to become independent, effective learners, we have to allow them that freedom.

I really enjoyed this chapter... only 3 more to go! :)