Sunday, March 18, 2018

#MTBoSBlog18 - Spring Break

Spring Break is finally here..  YAY!

I have a pretty lengthy to-do list for this break.  Yesterday, I had planned to kick off spring break with some yard work, but all that I managed to get done was to buy a new bird feeder and a new rake.... and veg on the couch with a good book :)

This spring break is one that I've looked forward to for a few weeks because life has been CRAZY!

Back in mid-February, I stepped down as the building rep for our teacher association because I've finally learned to take things off my plate that don't make me happy.  I am teaching classes I adore and being the building rep meant meetings that I didn't enjoy.

Little did I know that two weeks later, issues in my state would come to a head and the world as I knew it would be upside down.  In two weeks, our legislature has a legal deadline to have a budget in place.  If they don't, our public schools have vowed to shut down.  This terrifies me because our state legislature has disregarded this April 1st deadline for years with no penalty and this year, the penalty will result in a statewide shutdown of our schools.

To be honest, I don't want to be at our state capital instead of with my students.  I don't want to lose valuable instructional time with one month before AP exams.  I don't want my students to be on an extended break with little supervision. 

But, I also don't want my students to continue to have underfunded classrooms.  My students deserve a highly qualified teacher in every classroom.  My students deserve to have smaller class sizes so they can form lasting bonds with their teachers.  My students deserve to feel safe at school.  My students deserve to have textbooks and supplies.  My students deserve all of this and so much more.

In the face of this crisis, our teachers have stepped up.  Plans are in place to feed over 4000 kids in our district on free & reduced lunches.  Plans are in place to find temporary work for our classified (hourly) staff.  So many plans are in place that I honestly hope and pray that we don't have to use.

This week, I will try to enjoy my break, to get outside and enjoy the fresh air and let go of the stressors of the past few weeks.  But the countdown clock is ticking and that scares the heck out of me.

Friday, March 9, 2018

#MyFavFriday - Highs and Lows

Wow!  This has been a roller-coaster of a week!  We have one more week until spring break and I am *so* ready for it!  I need the break of non-school stuff to get my back patio set back up so I can enjoy the spring weather.  I've wanted to blog all week, but to be honest, I didn't know if I could adequately express my thoughts.  The teachers in my state are planning a walk-out on April 2 to protest educational funding and that has been on all of our minds this week.  I don't want to walk-out, but my district has done all they can do to protect the classrooms and the classroom teachers have done all they can do to protect the students, so ultimately, it is up to our state legislature to figure out a way to fix the situation we are in.  Year after year, we slip further behind, we lose more and more quality teachers to other students, our class sizes continue to grow while our resources continue to shrink.  But until April 2, I will continue to teach my students, to share my love of learning with them, and rejoice in each educational victory we have.

Whew - that ended up a longer rant than I meant for it to!  Sorry! :)

And on that note, let's move on to this week's favorites...

My Favorite Email of the Week:
Last week was our school's enrollment conferences for next year's enrollment.  During the course of those conferences, I was pulled over to visit with a family about AP Stat.  I didn't think much about it until Sunday night when I received an email from a former student from 17 years ago!  My former student was related to this family and while I hadn't heard from him since he graduated high school, he wanted to reach out to thank me for being a positive influence in his life.  I immediately remembered him, but I was completely humbled by his kind words as I was so young and inexperienced back then and have often wished I could go back and share what I know now with those students.  It means the world to me that he took the time to email me.  <3 p="">

My Favorite Activity of the Week:
Last week's Geometry lessons were frustrating.  I didn't feel like we were getting very far and to be honest, I'm still not sure if I used my time wisely. To follow up our Geogebra exploration, I gave my students a copy of the trig table and asked them to compared the 10 degree, 20 degree, etc line with their exploration.  We then formalized the rules with a foldable and spent several days working on just setting up and solving equations.  Yesterday, I introduced angles of elevation / depression and related application problems.  I took a worksheet that I had from 10 years ago and turned it into a question stack for today's Geometry lesson.  I have never felt so unneeded!  They were working together, rocking right along and rarely needed my assistance.  It was such a great end to the week!  One group even got into an argument today on whether one of the problems was realistic, including some really awesome discussions about gravity, physics, momentum, and possible scenarios that could have led to the problem.  :)

My Favorite Student Response of the Week:
I love the honesty of my students!  We've been working with the trig ratios in Geometry and before we moved on to applications, I asked my students to self-assess their competence with setting up and solving the equations.  I used the Marzano scale and most students rated themselves as a 2-3, which was fairly accurate based on my observations while they were whiteboarding.  But this student's response was one of my favorites:
"3.5 because I think that this is very easy and I could explain it to others if I had to but I don't want to."
How cute is that? :)

My Favorite Assignment of the Week
We are smack dab in the middle of inference in AP Stat.  On Monday, our lesson was on Type I / II Errors and Power.  This is one of my favorite topics to teach, which is super surprising given my first impression of them!  I was asked to teach AP Stat one week before school started in August 2000.  AP Stat was a fairly new AP subject (1997 was the first exam year), there were VERY minimal resources available, only one textbook had been released that aligned with the AP syllabus, and the teacher community was rather small.  Because of the timing, I wasn't able to attend a summer institute, but back then, our region hosted a few 2-day conferences throughout the year.  My first 2-day conference was in late October and one of the sessions was on Type I / II Errors and Power.  I had never heard of them, so I was hoping to learn enough to take back to my students.  However, that session was my breaking point.  I was young and inexperienced and honestly, I didn't yet know what I didn't know.  As the presenter started speaking, I felt the frustration building up because I just couldn't differentiate between the concepts.  I was so confused and overwhelmed.  Here I am, in a PD session, surrounded by other teachers, and all I could do was cry.  Literally - tears streaming down my face because I just didn't get it.  One of the handouts in that session was to have students create their own scenario and describe the errors and power and to this day, I love that assignment.  I've tweaked it over the years, but every time I teach this lesson, it brings me back to how I felt that day.   My weekend plans include grading their scenarios and it's one of the most enjoyable grading days I have all year.  The creativity of my students blows me away!

My Favorite Reminder of the Week:
At our monthly faculty meeting, during the "Teaching & Learning" segment, our site (and district) teacher of the year shared an activity she had learned in a Brain Based Learning workshop.  While the activity was kind of fun, my main take-away was the title... "Do just ONE thing to make a difference". 

Do you realize how powerful one little change can be?  One little change, such as "High Five Fridays" made a huge difference in my classroom culture and attitude.  Little changes like Multiple Choice Mondays made a huge difference in my AP test scores.  Sometimes the classroom can be overwhelming - there's so much to be done!!!  But, one little change can make a huge difference.  What if each month, we committed to making just one little change?  Over the course of the year, that's 10 changes that can add up to a HUGE difference!!

Happy Friday!!  

Monday, February 26, 2018

Productive Struggle

Alternate Title:  Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

A few weeks ago, a Twitter conversation with @JennSWhite and @Teachmathtorr started the wheels a'spinning...

I knew right triangle trig would be coming soon, so I quickly bookmarked Michele's Desmos Activity Builder (Go check it out here).  I *loved* the idea of exploring the trig ratios without mentioning sine, cosine, or tangent.  I loved the idea of tying into similar triangles and dilation.

But that was a few weeks ago and the whole conversation slipped my mind.

Until this weekend.

Right Triangle Trig was upon me... I started by looking at the MTBoS Search Engine, which is my go-to starting place for a new unit.  That led me to Tina C's blog and Lisa B's blog, both of which referenced a Geogebra applet similar to Michele's Desmos AB.

I'm not a huge Geogebra person but I liked the simplicity of the applet, so I decided to try it and do Desmos tomorrow.

Like Michele's Desmos AB, I decided to focus just on the opposite / hypotenuse ratio, letting them explore by creating different triangles and hopefully noticing that all of them had the same ratio (or very close.. rounding issues ya know...)

And things were going pretty okay...

Until they weren't :(

I had started them with exploring with angle A set to 35 degrees, then asked the following questions:

Holy moly - you would have thought I had asked them to perform major surgery! :(

It did not end well :(  Either they just used the applet and totally ignored the instructions to try to figure it out first OR they just made up some random number and ignored the applet OR they got mad because I wouldn't just tell them what to do to find the value.  (cue whiny voices... But Mrs. T!!! Do I multiply or divide????)

By the end of the first hour, I knew that tonight would be a blogging night... I needed to process what had happened.  I also needed to regroup and figure out how to fix it tomorrow.  Thankfully I have a long commute and it was a beautiful night for a walk, so I spent most of that time working through what had happened today.

Here's a summary of my conclusions...

Thought #1:  Students are not used to thinking like mathematicians - looking for patterns, making conjectures, then testing those conjectures. 

Thought #2:  As teachers, it can be super frustrating, especially when the whining starts.  This often results in throwing our hands up in the air and giving in to the "just tell me what to do" mentality

Thought #3:  I need to provide my students more chances to make sense of the mathematics.  Had I given them the equations of 3 / x = 0.573  and x / 6.5 = 0.573, they probably could have found x with minimal issue.  However, having to think about "Okay, this means that 3 divided by some number has to equal the ratio of 0.573" was quite the stretch for them.  

Thought #4:  I am a strong believer that students need to grapple with a concept, but for the sake of time and for the sake of my sanity, I don't do it often enough.  This has to change.

So tomorrow is a new day...

We are going to discuss the work from today, then go back to the Geogebra applet to try to "build" the trig table by looking at angles from 10 degrees to 80 degrees and the 3 ratios, then comparing those to an actual trig table.  Along the way, we will explore a few more problems and see if it goes any better.

Today, the struggle was real.  Both for my students and for myself.  I just hope it pays off in the end :)

Here are the files if you are interested.  Many thanks to Michele, Tina and Lisa for the inspiration behind these files!
H3.1 - More Side Ratios (Day 2)
H3.1 - Practice Problems - Dry Erase Sheet

Saturday, February 24, 2018

#MyFavFriday - Long Short Week

This is the post that almost wasn't.

This week was the longest short week in history, I think!  It was emotionally draining, filled with meetings, and had the most roller coaster weather.  Seriously - it was 70 degrees when I left my house on Tuesday morning and my car was iced over when I headed home on Tuesday evening!  Add in all of other crazies of teh week and I didn't think I had a lot to say today to celebrate the positives, but then @pamjwilson challenged us all to post #onegoodthing on social media to remember something that went well this week, which is the accountability push I needed.

My Favorite Strategy of the Week:
Monday was our last PD Day of the year.  One of the science teachers and I gave a presentation on "How do you know what they know?  Formative Assessment Strategies for the classroom."  We had planned to share 10 strategies total and quickly ran out of time!  Our goal was to share high-impact strategies and to make the session very hands-on, where the teachers would actually experience the strategies first hand, increasing the likelihood of them using the strategies in class.  The "warm-up" activity was for each group to create a "KWL" chart (minus the L) of what they already knew about FA and what they wanted to learn during our session.  It was such a fabulous way to use a KWL - I was able to see what they already knew about the topic as well as see if their personal learning goals aligned with our presentation goals.  KWL is a strategy I don't use much with students, but, for this context it worked perfectly!

My Favorite Student Kindness of the Week:
I have the BEST students and truly love my job.  One of the reasons I love working with teenagers is that they are just so quirky and fun and I love watching them grow into adulthood.  During Forensics on Thursday, we had started our DNA unit and were talking about genetic traits when the topic of being a "taster" came up.  Apparently there is a genetic trait of being able to taste this certain chemical (PTC) and if you are a taster, it's extremely bitter.  My science co-teacher gave us all a little piece of paper to test if we were a taster.  Mine tasted just like paper, so I'm not a taster.  My co-teacher went on to ask the class about the taste of brussel sprouts and asparagus because those vegetables have PTC and will be very bitter to tasters.  I mentioned I had never had either one, so one student decided to make and bring me some brussel sprouts for lunch on Friday so I could try them!  It was just such a sweet gesture on her part and I really appreciated it - plus I got a yummy lunch out of it! :)

My Favorite Student Comments of the Week:
From a student I've had for two years:  "Mrs. T, you're always SO upbeat and happy!  How much coffee do you drink?"

From a student on Thursday after freezing rain on Wednesday and me lecturing them about driving home safely:  "Look, Mrs. T!  We all made it to class safely today because you told us to!"

My Favorite Student Note of the Week:
One of my Geometry students decided her Geometry quiz needed a bit of decoration and positive affirmation this week.  In case you can't read it, it says "Pretty Corner - where everything is beautiful and failure isn't an option!"  Then an arrow and "Words of Encouragement".  This student has had her struggles in math in the past, but she's done pretty well in Geometry.  She takes drawing breaks every so often on her quizzes / assignments, but this is the first one I've seen with words of encouragement.  I hope her own words make her smile the way they did for me.

My Favorite Whiteboard Use this Week:
In AP Stat this week, we have been learning the logic of hypothesis testing.  It can be very overwhelming at first because of all of the requirements and the technology usage.  At the last minute, I decided to print out calculator screens for the students to label and have on their tables as we went through some practice problems on the whiteboards.  I really love the increased whiteboard use in my classroom, but I need to find a super cheap source of pens... those suckers get expensive fast! :) 

So now I pass on Pam's challenge to you.... what is your #onegoodthing from this week?

Happy (late) Friday y'all!!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The 10% Rule

What a wild and crazy week filled with PD, 80 degree temps, followed by freezing rain and frozen car doors - and it's only Wednesday!!! :)

On Monday, I had the honor and opportunity of being interviewed by my Associate Principal for his inaugural podcast on Teaching and Learning.  I have known my AP as a fellow teacher and then as an administrator for almost 20 years and I highly respect him as an educator and colleague.  During the interview, we talked about a lot of things, such as technology in the classroom, assessment strategies, and the things that have impacted my classroom over the years.

One of the questions he asked was regarding what advice I would give to teachers about how to go about making changes in their own classroom practice and this question has been knocking around in my head ever since.  

I think Steve Leinwand said it best in his Mathematics Teacher article on surviving in a sea of change:

What I love about this 10% idea is that it is manageable.  We have so many things that can overwhelm us on a monthly / weekly / daily / hourly basis, but if we focus on changing just one lesson every 2 weeks, think about how those little changes, those little shifts, will add up in the long run!

This 10% idea came back to the forefront as I planned my lessons this week.  I'm notorious for changing my lesson at the last minute, which is part of the reason why I have a commercial grade printer at my house!  I'm constantly looking for the best way to reach my students, which often results in me completely scrapping a lesson the night before I plan to teach it.  For the record, I don't recommend that you find your "10%" quite in this same manner, but that is how it seems to work in my world. :)

In AP Stat, we are starting 1 sample hypothesis tests and last Friday, we did the "Globe Lab" where we tossed around inflatable globes from Dollar Tree to test the hypothesis of 71% water on the globe's surface.  This is a great activity to expose students to the logic of hypothesis testing and how it ties in with the sampling distribution model for proportions.  After a 3 day weekend, it was time to formalize the process.  The only issue is that yesterday/today was a block day and no one needs to do 100 minutes of lecture, which means that Monday afternoon / evening, I was trying to figure out how to integrate some practice, movement, and brain breaks into the very lengthy lesson.

For all of our hypothesis tests, I teach a 6 step method (see foldable above) and my students are already familiar with how to write hypotheses and checking their conditions, but putting it all together and writing conclusions are definitely new to them.

I decided that we would take notes and practice the first three steps (name, hypotheses, conditions), then finish up the notes and practice making decisions and writing conclusions.  I adapted 4 textbook problems and printed them double sided, so that when folded in half, the problems would fit into 5x7 acrylic frames.  (See photo on left)  When we got to the part of taking the paper out of the frame, unfolding it, turning it over and refolding it for "the rest of the story", you would have thought I had totally blown their minds! :)  

Now back to the 10% rule....
I've taught hypothesis testing now for 18 years, with some years being way more successful than others.  From lecture to activities to practice problems to card sorts to error analysis - I've done it all.  But this one little change of adding in some processing time and brain breaks seems to have made a huge impact, based on the results from their daily reflection.  Hopefully that impact is still noticeable tomorrow :)

Here are the files if you are interested:
Hypothesis Test Foldable (print two sided - flip on short edge)
Hypothesis Test Practice Problems (print two sided - flip on long edge)
Practice Problems Recording Sheet (print two sided - flip on short edge)

(This should go without saying, but recently, several teachers, including me, have found some of our work put onto teacher websites for a profit.  The files I've shared above are for your personal use and not to be used for profit.  The 4 practice problems are adapted from textbook problems and are not my original work, but the foldable and recording sheet are mine.  Sorry to end this post on a downer note, but it needed to be said :) )

Friday, February 16, 2018

#MyFavFriday - Valentine's Week

The weeks keep zooming by... we're halfway through February, which means March (and spring break) is just around the corner.  We've had some gorgeous weather here and I'm so ready for spring to arrive so I can sit out on the patio and enjoy the warm breeze.

This week went by way too fast though, starting from a home emergency on Monday (no hot water... eek!) to Valentine's Day to now and I have so much more on my to-do list than I have time.  I'm supposed to give a presentation on Monday at our PD Day and while I have most of it planned out, I need to actually get it down on paper and practice it.

When I first envisioned this blog series, I didn't know how well it would go over or if I would even follow through with it, but I have to say that one of my favorite things about the #MyFavFriday posts is that it forces me to sit down and reflect on the week and to focus on the positives and the joy that happens each week.  It can be so easy in this profession to get dragged down by the unimportant junk and it's vital for us to remember our WHY.  With that said, on to this week's post...

My Favorite Lesson of the Week:
This week actually had some lessons that turned out fairly well, even though 2 of the days this week were taken up by tests/quizzes.  :)

In Forensic Science, we've been working on Blood Spatter and calculating angle of impact and point of origin.  I wanted them to see what it was like to string a crime scene on a small scale, so I gave them a scale drawing of a blood spatter pattern, some blood droplets, yarn, tape, and a protractor.  It was so much fun to watch them work together and to see how their calculations came to life!  As you can see in the photo, it created a bit of a tangle as they laid out their yarn to create their lines of convergence to find where the victim was standing, then from the blood droplets, they used the angle of impact to find out where the blood originated from.  Using some trig, we were able to confirm that the "stringing" and the "math" agreed! :)  I had never done this lesson in quite this way before, but I loved how it turned out!

My Favorite Discussion of the Week:
In Geometry, we've been working on Special Right Triangles.  I sadly didn't get any pictures of these lessons but so far, we've been investigating patterns using the properties of squares / equilateral triangles and the Pythagorean Theorem.  Today, while investigating the 30-60-90 triangle, the discussion turned to what "real mathematicians" do and I explained to my class that they were "real mathematicians" - that mathematics is truly the study of patterns and testing to see if those patterns hold and that they've always been mathematicians, just that the construct of formal school has a tendency to beat that joy of discovery out of them.  I really wish I could have captured the atmosphere in a bottle during that discussion.... :)

My Favorite use of VNPS:
On Monday, we were reviewing for a quiz in Geometry and a test in AP Stat, so last weekend I worked on creating some engaging review activities for my students.  As I said above, I ended up having to leave halfway through the day, but I was so proud of how well my Geometry kids did on their review.  My original plan was to give them 4 stations and having them up on the big whiteboards, but the group pictured asked instead if they could work on the floor.  Ummm.. sure!  I mean, an hour of talking and doing math AND you're comfy on the floor?  That's a total win, right??? :)

My Favorite Valentine Display (Plus an Addition):
I blogged earlier this week about the Valentine's Display board I did this year and today, a couple of my 5th hour boys were over reading the hearts and asked why I haven't posted any more this week.  I told them that the board was the equivalent to my Valentine's Card for them and Valentine's Day was on Wednesday, so Wednesday was the last heart I added.  They truly seemed sad that I had stopped adding hearts, so they decided to add their own hearts to the display.  :)

The one I shared at the left says "I love how Mrs. T buys us our own tape, Cheerios, globes and [table] boxes."  This cracked me up (as well as most of the class) as he wrote it while thinking out loud and originally had "... globes and love" and one of the other students teased him about buying love.  I should mention here that his note refers to the supplies I provide for them and various lab activities, including today's "globe toss" lab to introduce hypothesis testing. :)  My kiddos can drive me crazy at times, but underneath it all, they are a good-natured group of kids and I'm blessed to play a small part in their lives!

My Favorite Surprise:
Any teacher can tell you that January and February are the hardest months of the school year.  It's typically a stretch with dreary gray days and no breaks, unless you have a snow day.  This year, one of our new assistant principals has really tried to foster a positive staff culture at our school and as a result, a Secret Val Pal exchange was born.  Those of us that chose to participate were asked to fill out a questionnaire, then the organizer paired us up anonymously and sent us our match.  Our school is quite large with approximately 200 teachers spread out over multiple buildings, so many of us did not know our Val Pal at all, which was the case with the person that had my name.  However, my Val Pal knocked it out of the ballpark with her final "reveal" gift!  One of our new art teachers had my name and she gifted me with this gorgeous piece of artwork that is absolutely PERFECT for me :)  Now I need to get it framed and find a place to hang it in my room :)

My Favorite Compliment of the Week:
My last favorite of the week is kind of a shallow one, but it still made my day. :)  On Wednesday morning, I was waiting on a meeting to start when one of our ELA teachers called my name.  She said that she just had to tell me something, even though it was superficial.  She went on to say that the previous week, when I had spoken at our faculty meeting, she had noticed that I looked really stylish and put together.  Then, the next day as she was digging through her closet saw that she had the same elements as my previous day's outfit, so she mimicked me and felt very fashionable and cute all day!  This conversation isn't the type of thing I would normally share in a public forum, but her comment reminded me how I am often hesitant to say something because it seems superficial yet that comment might have a much deeper impact to the other person.

What were your favorite moments from this week?  Feel free to share them in the comments or to tweet with hastag #MyFavFriday.  Happy Friday, y'all!! :)

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Happy Valentine's Day!!

Happy Valentine's Day!  I hope each of you had an amazing day filled with treats and lots of love.

This was probably my favorite Valentine's Day in years and it all comes back to mindset!

Back in January, I saw a link on Facebook to this picture / blog post / pin:
14 Fun Ideas for Valentine's Day with Kids | Healthy Ideas for Kids 
Source:  Pinterest

The idea was that each day, starting on February 1, you should put a heart on your child's door with a reason why you love them.  I loved this idea, but I don't have children of my own.

But I do have 130 students every day that walk through my doors and every one of them is a blessing to me.  So I decided to do this with my students instead!  I shared the idea on Facebook and several other #MTBoS friends joined in.... so much fun!! :)

Here's the completed board (and shout-out to hubby for the header!):

Here are the reasons I put up each day:

  1.  I love that you aren't afraid to try new things
  2.  I love our High Five Fridays!
  3.  I love how talented you are! (Music, Art, Drama, Academics, Attitude, and so much more)
  4.  I love that you help each other!
  5.  I love that you don't give up, even when things are challenging.
  6.  I love that you are willing to make mistakes and "be wrong" because that's when learning happens!
  7. I love that you are willing to take risks!
  8. I love that you are kind-hearted toward your classmates!
  9. I love to watch you grow and learn over the year, both in math and in confidence
  10. I love that you show respect for yourselves and each other!
  11. I love that you are comfortable enough to tell me when you aren't sure about math.
  12. I love that you can make me smile / laugh everyday!
  13. I love that you have a positive attitude, even when I ask you to step out of your comfort zone!
  14. I love that I get a chance to play a small role in your lives.
This was one of the best things I've ever done in my classroom because it really made me focus on the positive qualities and  remembering my why.  Mindset matters!  When you focus on the positives, when you remember to find the joy in what you do each day, the rest of the junk just kind of fades away.

I had so much fun doing this in my classroom that I ended up doing this for my husband as well!  Each day I snuck around the house to put a heart-shaped post-it note on his computer monitor with a reason why I loved him.

I'd definitely recommend trying this next year, or if you don't want to wait, then do it for March and Saint Patrick's Day.... "Why I'm LUCKY to be your teacher!" :)