Sunday, June 29, 2008

A Week at a Glance

First I must apologize... I had planned to document the AVID summer institute, but I did not. We were busy from the time we got up til the time we went to bed. Morning strands (content areas) lasted from 8-12 each morning, then we met with our site teams in the afternoon. We had 8 people from our district on our site team, so after lunch each day, we met back at the hotel around 2pm to have our site team meeting. Typically these meetings lasted until 5ish, then we met for dinner around 5:30. Thankfully our hotel was within walking distance of the West End as well as the trolley to West Village and Uptown. While this was an exhausting week, I always come away feeling very energized for the new year. I love working with other teachers in my strand as well as my site team.

On Friday, our presenters had us write ourselves postcards, with one side decorated with a "mind map" of our week. On the other side, we wrote ourselves a note to remind ourselves of the ideas we had this week that we wanted to do next year. I thought it was a very neat way to finish out the week.

Now to leave you with some quotes from the workshop...
"If, as teachers of mathematics, we don't take the time to teach them [students] how to read a math textbook, no one else will" - Jim, presenter

"I'm a much better tutor in classes I don't know well because I question more. In math I have to bite my lip to not tell them the answer" - Jim, presenter

"If learning is not taking place, neither is teaching" - Keynote speaker

"If a student fails 2 classes, 1 of which is Algebra 1, they have an 80% chance of dropping out" - Keynote speaker

"There are no shortcuts to a place worth going" - Eddie, luncheon speaker

"Don't look down on someone else unless you are helping them up" - Eddie, luncheon speaker

As always, I appreciate you stopping in to read about my adventures. If you have the opportunity to go to an AVID summer institute, I encourage you to go. It is one of the most professionally rewarding experiences of my career. Now I'm home for a few days (yay) before going away for the holiday. Until next time, take care :)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Streetcar Named Matilda

Well, here we are at the AVID summer conference. We left the high school yesterday in 2 vans to venture down to Dallas, TX for the conference. Other than a short (ahem) detour (aka, we were LOST!), we made it here without too much drama. It was nice to visit (aka gossip) with other teachers from the school about the goings-on since Memorial Day.

Today, roomie and I got to sleep in (woohoo). There were optional meetings starting at 9:30am, but neither of us were required to be there, so we were able to use the time to sleep in, read, take a walk to Dallas's West End shopping district, etc, before going to register for the conference. After registering, a few of us visited while waiting on the keynote speaker. The keynote was presented by the super of Midland ISD and I felt his speech was very well done. Then it was off to the first site team meeting. Our district director (DD) split us into two groups. She kept the teachers that were new to the AVID program with her to learn about the background, our goals, etc. The remaining 2 teachers and myself have been involved in the program for a while and our goal was to define the curriculum for each grade level. We got a lot done, so we headed back to the hotel a bit early to type it up.

The hotel is a nice hotel in downtown Dallas - however, internet access costs $15.10 a day!!!! It is complimentary to the "president club members", so I quickly joined the (free) President's club and talked them into letting me have internet access now instead of on my next visit LOL!

We all met for dinner in the lobby and took a vintage streetcar named Matilda (built in 1927 in Australia) to the West Village for dinner. It was a delightful ride and I took pictures, but they haven't arrived in my email box yet :) We visited for a while at dinner, then took a different streetcar back to the hotel where it's now time to curl up with my book and crash...

Tomorrow we meet in the mornings for our "strands", which are content level (mine is math obviously), then another site team meeting in the afternoon. I am looking forward to the morning strand, I really learned a lot last year.

As with all adventures, I'll update you tomorrow :) Until then, have a great day!

Friday, June 20, 2008

More Rambling Thoughts...

Due to this summer's schedule, I am having to fit in school work whenever I can. My last day of school was May 27th, had the next day off, then meetings on the 29th and 30th. Got another few days off before leaving for the reading on June 4th. Got back into town June 12th and slept for a couple of days (seriously!), then I'm off this week. I leave again Sunday for another workshop and will be back on the 27th. The following week is the 4th of July and we'll head to the lake for the weekend, then I'll stay and work with my sister the next week, then I'm off for a couple of weeks before vacation with my family. Then it's August *sigh*. I'm tired just thinking about it!

Anyway, due to the craziness listed above, I'm working on school items at a somewhat leisurely pace, yet with the ticker in the back of my head counting down the days....

Since I now have a new homework policy (thanks ap-calc listserv!!) and have plans to teach how to read a textbook (a vital skill IMO), I then needed to figure out how to assess the notes.

I've never had students turn in their binders mainly because it was rather intimidating to see 30 binders stacked on my desk. However, due to the note issue, I think I am going to have the AP stat kiddos turn in their binders 4 times a year (fall break, winter break, spring break, and after the AP exam). Each quarter then, I will assess their notebook for the material from that quarter. I want their binder organized in sections (Important Papers [syllabus, formula sheet, calendars, etc], Unit 0, Unit 3, Unit 1, Unit 2, ..., AP Review, etc...). Within each unit, the work should be in chronological order (assignment sheet, vocabulary list, chapter notes, chapter HW (which is of course optional), chapter handouts, chapter quiz/project, next chapter's stuff, test review). And.. instead of the "retake" idea for homework, I will have the HW in their binder be extra credit towards that quarter (which is such a small amount that it doesn't mean anything, but they seem to think it does! LOL). That means I will need a rubric and maybe a table of contents (?) for checking student organization. If you do a notebook in your class - can you share a rubric???

Late Work...
Another issue that annoys the heck out of me is late work. In the past, I have given my stat kiddos some control over this, but I've not found that it works too well. I had been giving them "late passes" that they could use when they needed to in order to turn something in late. Most kiddos though, try to abuse this policy, so this year I'm going back to what I do for my geometry classes. It is due the day it's due. If you turn it in 1 day late, it's automatic 80% credit, after that it's 50% credit. In Geometry, I actually go around and pick up paper from each student. If they don't have it, they fill out a form for me documenting why they don't have it ready on the due date. It works rather well in Geometry, so I'm going to give it a shot in AP.

Review Quizzes...
One of the mandates of my district are "Essential Elements"... which simply means we have to identify in each of our courses what we consider to be vital information. For several years, in AP, I've done vocabulary for these EE's. Another district mantra is "Don't give them permission to forget"... in other words, many kids simply "rent" the information for the test and don't really "own" it for the long term. Part of our district's goals is to make sure students retain for the long term, therefore our assessments are supposed to be cumulative. I do have some cumulative elements in my AP class, but not so much on assessments, so this year I am merging these two district goals into "Review Quizzes". Each week, I will give a RQ that has 5 vocabulary words and 5 AP-style multiple choice questions from anything we've covered so far. (Oh - and we have to do an item analysis on these for the purposes of remediation *g*).

and my last new change...

For the past couple of years, I've done PODs (Problem of the Day). These have been multiple choice questions, but since I am putting the MC on the RQs, I am changing the PODs to be more conceptual type questions from their reading and lecture notes. For example:
1) Your classroom "buddy" was absent when we learned how to check for outliers in a dataset. Explain step-by-step how to do this process for your friend.
2) What is the main difference you should look for when determining if a probability distribution follows a binomial model or a geometric model?
3) How are segmented bar graphs related to the chi-square test for two-way tables?
4) Name some advantages and disadvantages to creating a stemplot.
5) If you need to take a sample of our HS population, describe a way that you could do this using a cluster sample.
Each Friday they will turn in their POD sheet and I will pick a random day to grade. I'm hoping this daily writing practice will help them in learning technical writing - which should help on tests, quizzes, and the AP exam.

Well, I think that's it for now... as always, if you have feedback, I'd love to hear it!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Ramblings about Next Year...

I would appreciate any thoughts you guys have about the following rambles (regarding my HS class)...

Taking Notes....
I'm pretty sure that most students have not been taught how to take notes. Since my school starts on a Thursday, I am thinking of taking that Friday to teach them HOW to take Cornell Notes. (See neat Cornell note maker here)

Then, we will move on to reading the first part of our textbook together and learning HOW to take notes from a textbook. I know the traditional SQ3R methods, etc, but last night I found one that was something like PRQW (I may have the order wrong....)
P - Preview the section - look at the pictures, graphs, captions, sidebars, etc
R - Read the section - make sure you turn the heading into a question!
Q & W - Question and Write - from the section, write 2-3 test or quiz questions (and their answers!)

Now my challenge is how to assess this. I could have them turn in their questions and use them as questions for quizzes and/or warmups. Or I can do open-notebook concept quizzes. Or ??? (Fill in your idea here!)

I've been cleaning my office this week and finding various papers from previous years (suggestions for next year, to-do lists for the summer, neat ideas from online, etc). One of the papers I ran across was a collection of homework ideas - most from the AP calculus listserv I think. I found one idea that I really like, but would love some feedback... here's an excerpt of the idea:

"Some students can do few problems and learn the concept, and some students need to do many problems to learn the same concept, and some students can just pay attention in class and pick up everything.... I do give my students ton of homework each day, but I don't care if they don't do any of it. Every Friday I pick some problems out of the homework, and make a quiz out [of] it. I also give retakes on all weekly quizzes, and if a student makes less than 80% on the first quiz that student must produce all (every single problem with all steps worked out) of that weeks homework, and a parent note, before they can take a retake. ... The students only have one week to take a retake...."

Now of course I would modify this for me. Rather than weekly quizzes it would be chapter (or section) based, and since I"m not always fast on getting papers back, I think I'd have to modify the retake policy idea, but overall, I like the idea of this system for several reasons....
1) it is a way to transition from traditional HS to more of a college approach
2) it forces more responsibility onto them rather than onto me
3) allows me to assess with more quality rather than completion grades
4) it has built in differentiation for the various ability levels
5) it has built in remediation for those students that did not do well
6) helps with parent concerns when they realize Johnny had the test bank but chose not to do it!
7) it puts some element of control back in the hands of the kids - it's their choice and their grade

Of course, I need to figure out some way to help the retake structure... but that's where YOU come in! What are other Pros/Cons of this? Help me brainstorm it out!

:) Have a good day!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


I've never been an person who craves adventure. I'm more of a stay at home, relax at the lake, read a book type of gal. So after 8 years of teaching AP Statistics, I don't know what possessed me to apply to be an AP reader. I don't even *like* grading my student papers - let alone the thought of spending the next 7 days grading papers for 8 hours a day in order to get over 100,000 AP exams graded!!

But the time has come. Tomorrow morning at this time, I will be sitting in the airport waiting for my flight to be called to send me off to Louisville to join 450 other statistics teachers from around the nation. To say I'm nervous is an understatement. I have spent several of the past days trying to figure out what to take with me, hoping I don't forget anything, nervous about flying and having a roommate that I don't know.

To make matters worse, this has been a very overwhelming few days. Our last day at the high school was last Tuesday but then I had meetings on Thursday and Friday. Our weekend plans included seeing both my mom and MIL for their birthdays, cleaning out the freezer due to a loss of power (YUCK!!), dealing with hurricane force winds and rain, and losing air conditioning for 24 hours in 90+ degree heat.

Now I'm off to finish laundry, cleaning the house, going to the doctor, packing, and dinner with my family tonight. I will try to blog about my experiences at the AP reading if I get a chance. Have a wonderful day to all of you!