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.

Friday, October 12, 2018

#MyFavFriday - Fall Break

It's been a few weeks since I've done a #MyFavFriday and honestly, I almost didn't do one again this week.  But, as I'm sitting here fighting off sleep, I realized how much I really value these posts for my personal mindset and positivity.  I really do love what I do each day, but it's also so easy to feel overwhelmed by my inadequacy.  I love my students dearly, and it truly hurts my heart when I'm not able to reach a child, when there's not enough hours in the day to be what I need to be for everyone, when I recognize that a student needs more than I'm able to humanly give.  Recently, I've allowed myself to go to that place where instead of celebrating the successes, I focus on the failures and wallow there.  One of my friends posted a picture today that said "Just because you are struggling doesn't mean you're failing" and while I see an academic application with regard to productive struggle, that quote hit me personally as well.  Fall Break is coming this week and to be honest, I need it - time to recharge, to refocus, and to center myself again, so that I can celebrate the successes...

Speaking of, let's look at what happned this week!

My Favorite New Notebook:
Full disclosure - this is actually from last week, but hey, it's my blog post, so I can do whatever I want, right? :)

I have a lot to do on a daily basis with 3 preps plus all of the other things I try to juggle.  I often fail struggle with keeping everything straight.  It's not uncommon for a student to remark on how organized I am - HA! if they only knew... lol!  For years, I've put a "to-do list" in my lesson planner and it rarely gets used - I'm more of a post-it notes girl!  But at the end of last year, I started keeping my lists in a small notebook and then summer came and the notebook went away.  Last week, while at Dollar Tree, I found this adorable small notebook and I now have a to-do list book again! (Bonus: it has polka dots and a positive message - can it get any better than that???)  Plus, it's small enough to fit in my purse, but it has a hard cover so it's less prone to damage - that's a win win situation for me!

My Favorite Lesson of the Week:
This week in Geometry was the week every teacher dreads - the introduction to proofs!  We had spent time last week on inductive vs deductive reasoning, the laws of logic, and all of the conditional statements, now it was time to pull it all together.  Last year, I had found (via the MTBoS of course!), a great lesson plan on how to introduce proofs using word puzzles and I really liked it.  This year, I tweaked it a bit to include the structure of a 2-column proof with the puzzles and the kiddos took to it like it was nothing!  The next day, we did algebraic and basic geometric proofs and they rocked it!  This literally was the smoothest transition to statements and reasons that I've ever had and many students commented positively on how much they enjoyed the lesson.  That's a keeper, folks!

My Favorite Warmup of the Week:
If you don't follow @1to9puzzle on Twitter, I highly recommend it!  This is my go-to Friday warmup and I really, really LOVE using the movable 1-9 puzzle pieces to make it more of an low-floor problem.  I had tried using the puzzles last year but without the manipulative pieces and it did not go well.  With the pieces, though, is a game-changer!  I had actually created the numbers for use with Open Middle problems, but it just happens they fit perfectly in the enlarged @1to9puzzle too!  Kids just can't resist a good puzzle... :)

My Favorite Instructional Technology Moment of the Week:
Not every day is a great day in my classroom.  We finished up proofs on Wednesday, then I had one spare day before we paused for our midterm test.  I knew I didn't want to spend another day on proofs, so I decided to put together a Desmos AB to review parallel and perpendicular lines, which is the unit we'll start after Fall Break.  I worked on it for a while, had my student aide test it out, tweaked it a half dozen more times, and then it was time for the students.. and it flopped.  Big time.

BUT - thanks to the comments and the running around I did during 1st hour, I was able to edit it and make some much needed revisions for my 2nd hour and it went much better.  We don't use the Chromebooks a ton in my class, but I am super grateful for tools such as Desmos that allow for some great mathematical conversations!

My Favorite Acts of Student Kindness:
How better to start off a crazy Friday than with donuts???  This week was Homecoming week, so today included a pep assembly, shortened schedule, early dismissal, and a parade - oh, yeah, and a Football game tonight too! :)  But, before all of the craziness hit, one of my students came in for extra help and surprised me with breakfast! 

I really have some great kids this year and while they can sometimes be onery, I am so blessed to be their teacher and to play a small part in their lives.  Sometimes in the busyness of life, we (I) can lose sight of my "why" of what we do - and in one small act of kindness and appreciation, it made so many wrong moments right again.  Thank you, kiddo - I needed that :)

What were your favorite moments this week?  Share out in the comments or tweet with #MyFavFriday :)

Until next time... Have a blessed day!

Friday, September 21, 2018

#MyFavFriday - TGIF!

I'm so grateful that this week is over!  It's been a crazy and busy week where I never quite felt balanced.  Weird frustrations kept popping up, computers were acting funky, and I had to make a mad dash to my hometown for a family event mid-week.  All in all, I'm ready for a low-key weekend of grading, shopping, friends, and general relaxation!

But through it all, my kids were troopers - we had some really fun lessons, some great discoveries, and I was reminded yet again that I work with some great kids, staff, and admin.  :)

So now on to this week's favorite moments...

My Favorite Mindset Moment of the Week:
Sometimes I wonder if students listen to me at all, then I see a note like this one :)  I really do love the way I'm checking homework in Geometry this year and I really enjoy having a place to have a personal conversation with students each day.

This particular student has had struggles in past math classes, yet has one of the best examples of growth mindset I've ever seen in a student!  Just the day before, I had overheard this kiddo explaining how to use a protractor to a groupmate (and doing a fabulous job!), so I was a bit surprised when the student didn't do the nightly homework - until I read the note left for me.  Notice the "yet" and the note (which is cut off) says that the student chose not to fill in the answers when we went over the homework because they wanted to try it on their own first, then check our online LMS later.  Be still my heart... this kiddo GETS it! :)

My Favorite Lesson of the Week:
In Forensics this week, we were on to Trace Evidence.  Last Friday, our campus police chief came to talk to the students about his experience as a CSI (prior to coming to work for our district), which was a *perfect* lead-in to this week's lesson plans!  My co-teacher had already had her aide (one of our previous Forensics students) dirty up the socks, so after our lesson on how to collect and package evidence, we sent the kiddos outside to find their "crime scene".  Co-teacher had planted 15 socks around our building in various locations, so our students had to find one, photograph and sketch the scene, collect the evidence and turn it in to the "Evidence Locker" for safe-keeping and to preserve the chain of custody.  Then, the next day it was time to analyze the evidence.  We did macro and micro investigation, talked about oblique lighting, doing a tape pull, and various ways to watch for contamination.  Some of the groups had ants, hair, grass, sticklers, and other various outside things attached to their socks, which led to some REALLY interesting explorations, especially under the microscope! :)  One group even clipped off part of the really dirty heel area and under the microscope was able to see some pollen spores! 

My Favorite "Why I Teach" Moment of the Week:
Sometimes, things happen that just make your heart happy and it's so hard to keep the silly smile off your face!  One of my students had some struggles on last week's quiz.  On Tuesday morning, this student came to class early, so I was able to speak privately to them about wanting to work on the objectives and asked if they might be available to come in during our Homeroom time on Wednesday.  When this student came in, we briefly went over some of the struggles and we were able to pin down the root cause.  To make sure things were better, I gave the student a few independent practice problems and before I knew it, the student had used up every single whiteboard at the table, just filling them over and over and over again with math problems!  At the end of our time together, the student was confidently solving problems and had worked SO hard!  I love when a student is able to see their own progress and realize that they really are a math person! 

My Favorite Student Comment of the Week:
I'm not sure this one needs much explanation... :)
On Fridays, our exit ticket is a #5things Friday, as I try to get them to reflect on the week and just get to know them a bit better.  This student chose to share a few compliments for #5things.  When I read #4 to my aide later in the day, she agreed and asked how I'm able to always be in a good mood... it's easy!  I love what I do, I love the kids I work with, I truly enjoy the classes and students that I teach and honestly, it's a "fake it until you make it" thing.  I make the choice every day to "choose joy" :)

Have a blessed weekend, my friends and Happy Friday!

Friday, September 7, 2018

#MyFavFriday - Short Week!

How has another week zoomed by???

This short week was extremely fast, which is great because usually short weeks last *forever*!  It was a busy week, but mostly productive, and I'm finally feeling like I might have my act together.  Balance has been really difficult for me so far this year and I am really excited to finally feel like my feet might be planted on firm ground.  The bonus parts of this week were seeing both of my student aides from last year as they came by to say hi while on a break from their college classes!  I always love when previous kiddos come by and we have some time to catch up :)

Due to the short week, I didn't take quite as many photos as usual, but here are my favorites of the week:

Favorite Math Task of the Week:
In Geometry this week, we worked with coordinate geometry, specifically the midpoint and distance formula as well as perimeter and area on the plane.  Today was a pep assembly day, so I knew we were on a short schedule and I really wanted to do some sort of mixed review.

One of my colleagues had found the Wild Wonders Amusement Park Task last year and shared it with the rest of us.  I decided to give my students this task today and I'm so glad I did!  The conversations that I overheard were some of the best conversations I've heard in a long time.  They stayed engaged the entire time and some kiddos were really into it.  I wish I could bottle the feeling I had this morning for those rough days :)

Favorite "Pop Quiz" of the Week:
In Forensics, we have been working on observation skills and trying to train the students to really *see* their surroundings.  Last week, we did several photo quizzes, where we showed them a photo for about 30 seconds and then gave them a pop quiz on what they saw.

This week, we took that same idea and moved to a bigger picture - our classrooms!  The Forensics class is team taught with myself and a science teacher and we have a double room with large doors in the middle.  Without warning, we had the kids swap rooms and their job was to sketch (from memory) the classroom they have primarily been in for the past 2 weeks.  After giving them 10 minutes or so to sketch, we did a pop quiz over the classroom details.  One group decided that when all else fails, you should write "Ladybugs!" as an answer to any question about my classroom. LOL  The level of detail they were able to provide was pretty amazing though!

Favorite MTBoS Resource of the Week:
I don't know where I would be without the MTBoS!  As I was planning my Geometry lessons this week, I started looking around Katrina Newell's blog for any "get up and moving" activities she might have.  (If you've never visited her blog - go now... it's worth it!)

Anyway, she had a Distance / Midpoint Around the Room Stations activity, so I promptly printed it and around my room it went.  On their extra ticket, I asked my students to share the most confusing part of the lesson and any questions they had.  One young man asked, "How did you make the activity?"  LOL!  My response - "I didn't!  A friend of mine did!"  And I'm so grateful she did and that she shared with the rest of us :)  I love looking around my room and seeing the touches of my MTBoS family throughout!  Thank you all for being my "people" :)

Favorite Gift of the Week:
My Forensics co-teacher and I have been close friends for many years and have been through a lot together.  On Tuesday morning, she comes over to my room to tell me she has a gift for me and it's these *adorable* kitty-cat salt and pepper shakers that she found last weekend while shopping with some other friends.

They are just too darn cute not to share! :)

That wraps us another week and now it's time to settle in to watch some high school football :)  Have a great weekend and Happy Friday! :)

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Teaching Diary

This summer, one of my #eduread books was Why Don't Students Like School by Daniel Willingham.

I really got a lot out of this book and it will definitely be on my "revisit" list as I loved the classroom implications for each chapter!

But the last chapter is the one that really got me personally.

The final chapter in the book is titled "What About My Mind?" and differs from the rest of the chapters in the book as it focuses on how we as teachers can grow professionally and continue to learn throughout our career.  Some of the suggestions are things I've heard of before, such as video-taping yourself or inviting observation, such as the Observe Me movement, but one suggestion really stuck with me - a Teaching Diary.

I'm a paper person in general - I love writing my lesson plans down, I brainstorm on paper, etc, but a Diary?  I have never (successfully) kept a diary in my life!  Heck, my childhood diary still has more than half of its pages empty and I wrote in it off and on from age 7 to ???.  What makes me think I can keep up with a Teaching Diary?

Well - maybe I can't, but I'm at least going to try :)

I purchased a super cute composition notebook, glued a table of contents and various calendars into it and am determined that it will go with me to (most) meetings as a place to record ideas, glue in handouts, etc.

But the biggest benefit - hopefully - will be the weekly recap pages. In the book, Willingham says...
"... don’t expect that you will really remember how well a lesson plan worked a year later. Whether a lesson goes brilliantly well or down in flames, we tend to think at the time that we will never forget what happened; but the ravages of memory can surprise us, so write it down."
So I decided to try it.  In my pretty mew notebook, I developed a weekly recap page where I can jot myself notes about how each day went, the pros / cons / changes for next year. 

I can't promise that I'll keep up with it, but baby steps, right? :)

Do you keep a teaching diary?  How do you have yours set up?

Monday, September 3, 2018

Homework.... Again

This summer, I posted a time or two about my Homework plan, based on the book Grading Smarter, Not Harder.  Now that school is in session and I've had some time to process my posts, I wanted to revisit this topic as a Blaugust post. Sadly, I missed the August deadline by a few days, but yesterday, I saw a tweet about homework and it reminded me...

Back this summer, as I was reading Grading Smarter, I mentioned the fact that I felt many students were not doing their homework because of a lack of accountability.  They didn't think I was looking at it, so therefore, it didn't matter if they did it or not.  I knew I wanted to develop a procedure that would add in the accountability that I was currently missing  without adding in a huge amount of work for me or my students.  

Part of my homework plan was to be very intentional in the problems I chose.  As a result, I decided that homework would never be more than 10 questions lost and preferably, at least 3 of those would be from previous knowledge.  In the image above, the half-sheet at the right is their HW / Exit Ticket sheet that stays in their table folders throughout the week.  As we grade our HW, the students code it using the codes on the left, based on a post from @pamjwilson.

After we have gone over the HW, students do a short reflection.  Here are some examples from the previous couple of weeks:


Overall, I really love this new way to communicate daily with my students, identify their struggles, and be able to see which problems we need to go over further before an assessment.  Students that in the past would have been too embarrassed or shy to ask a question are willing to ask it in the written form and that alone makes it worth it to me!