Tuesday, October 11, 2011

#statchat anyone?

First, let me preface this by saying I am having a *great* year.
Statistics has long been my passion and this year I am blessed to
teach AP Stat all day, plus one Intro to Stat class at the uni. I
really love only having one core class to prep for, my lesson plans
are quick to write, and in the case of a lab day, I don't have to set
up and tear down the labs multiple times. It's been great to branch
out and work with the science teachers on the integration of math and
science as well as exploring new ways to use technology in my

However, what I did NOT anticipate about this year was how much I
would miss the daily collaboration of my Algebra 2 buddies. For the
past several years, I have taught next to Partner Teacher and we have
joked that if we could put both our brains into one teacher, that we
would be unstoppable. This year, though, I moved across the parking
lot to a new building, leaving behind many of my close friends AND I
no longer teach Algebra 2, so I don't have the collaboration partners
that I am used to. This adds up to a year of feeling pretty alone in
my math world. I am one of those teachers that really learns through
brainstorming and discussion. I love the flow of ideas that can come
from a discussion on "How do you teach this topic?" or "My kids keep
messing up here - what do you do?" or "Dang, they bombed that quiz -
what now?"

This past Sunday, my feeling of isolation really came to a head and I
was very frustrated. In general, I believe in being proactive, so I
got on twitter that afternoon/evening and asked if anyone would be
interested in a weekly #statchat discussion. It doesn't have to be
ultra formal, I just want a time to talk to other stat teachers and
bounce ideas, labs, activities, suggestions, etc. I got a few
positive replies, so I thought I'd post here too - so, let me see a
show of hands... Anyone up for a weekly #statchat?

Til next time... :)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Active Learning

Tomorrow is my yearly Pre-Evaluation conference with my principal. Last week, he sent out an email asking for our professional goal for this year and suggested that it tie into our high school's goal of "increasing student engagement both in and out of the classroom." I decided that my goal for the year would be using Active Learning strategies on a regular basis.

I wrote about Active Learning last summer in this post. However, since then, I've become even more concerned that "classrooms are a place where students go to watch teachers work." The problem, for me at least, is how to solve this. I have a large collection of games, labs, activities, etc that I like to use, but I want more activities that are quick 5-10 minute activities (like Think-Pair-Share) that could be used during instructional time. Another issue I have is that I teach seniors and so many of the collaborative activities are fairly corny and would not go over well with my students. Yet a third issue I have is that while I have a large classroom, it feels fairly small with 32 bodies, so a lot of "move around activities" are hard to do.

Here are some of my tried and true favorites:

Partner Discussions
My classroom is set up in pairs. Daily, students talk to and work with their partners to discuss problems. I would like to develop some more specific strategies to use with the partners, beyond Think-Pair-Share.

Half Sheets
This strategy was first known as Relay Race and came from an ebay book that I got many many years ago. It is a definitely favorite amongst my students. Students work in pairs (or groups of 4) to work through problems. They get one problem (half sheet) at a time, bring it up to be checked, then get the next one to work on. The kids love this and I really like the individual feedback I can give to each group. This is again more of a review game though.

Gallery Walk
I have used a Gallery Walk with several concepts and I'm always impressed by the discussion that comes out of it. I love this idea and wish I could use it more often, but it's again a "move around" activity and that limits its usability. I have 8 groups of 4, but only whiteboard space for 6 groups, so I really need to invest in some of the "showerboard" whiteboards.

Exit Tickets
I really like the idea of Exit Tickets, but I just can't seem to make them work for me. I would love to hear how they are used in other classrooms.

What are your favorite strategies?

Math/Science Partnership - part 2

I have to admit, I'm so glad September is over! For most of the month, I felt so overwhelmed and behind and unable to catch up.

Anyway, the AP Env Sci (APES) teacher and I were able to get our students together to do the Quadrat Analysis activity. On the first day, we all met in her room as she talked about what QA is and why it is useful to scientists. I jumped in a few times to ask my students why we wouldn't want to take a census and what kind of sampling method QA was for us. Then we split up into groups of 4, with each group having 2 APES students and 2 Stat students. We gave each group a map and a yellow square of acetate and they were off to collect their data. They dropped the acetate 10 times, recording the species found in their sample. After their 10 trials, they found the average for each species, then multiplied by a conversion factor to find a population estimate for the land area. Finally, the groups put their data into a Google Form.

On Day 2, we started out in my room as I discussed the analysis that we were going to do. From the previous day's G-Form, I had compiled the population estimates for the 16 species on the map and each group was going to have one species to analyze. This proved to be a great review for my students on how to make well-done graphs, write descriptions, and test for outliers. Each group was given an 11x17 piece of paper to make a mini-poster for their species. The posters were then displayed for our Open House festitivies.

Overall, I was happy with how our first collaboration went and I think the students walked away with a better knowledge of how the course content overlaps.