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!

Friday, August 31, 2018

#MyFavFriday - Ready for a Long Weekend!

This month, I'm participating in a blog challenge called Blaugust.  To see the list of participating blogs, click on the logo above. I would encourage to you please cheer on our participants with either a tweet or a comment on their blog during this month. It can be hard to blog on a daily (or even regular) schedule! :)  If you would like to join the blogging challenge, you can still sign-up anytime!

Today wraps up the 2018 edition of MTBoS Blaugust!  I ended up blogging 18 times this month, which is more than the previous 5 months combined! :)  Thank you to everyone that participated in Blaugust, either as a blogger, a reader, a commenter, or supporter!

Not only is it the last day of August, it is also Friday, so it's time for another round of Friday Favorites!  Today was kind of a chill day as we had our district kick-off this morning followed by PD this afternoon.  I had a bit of time to work in my room on a few things between PD sessions, but I still brought home more than I really wanted to this weekend, so I foresee a lot of couch time as I grade papers and plan lessons! :)  So far this year is going *so* well!  YAY!

My Favorite Warmup
In Geometry last week, we were working on Points, Lines, and Planes.  This is traditionally a subject that can be a real struggle for students to see as the diagrams are almost always 3D pictures drawn in 2D space.  So last weekend as I was browsing the internet for some short activities to toss in the mix, I ran across this activity with some assembly required.  I decided it would be perfect for a warmup this week, added a few points to the plane and modified a few of the questions and off we went!  The discussions were fabulous, the student reflections showed some holes and gaps that I was able to fill in, and the ability to pick up the plane and manipulate it was probably one of the BEST parts about it!  Definitely an activity to do again in the future...

My Favorite Surprise of the Week

Tuesdays are my rough days.  We have block scheduling on Tuesday and Wednesday and for me, Tuesday is the non-plan day, which means my only break is lunchtime and actually eating lunch is fairly rare on Tuesdays as I shift gears from Geo to Stat.  So imagine my surprise when I check my mailbox Tuesday morning and find this lovely little card!  Inside was a super-sweet and encouraging note from a MTBoS friend.  I'm horrible about writing notes, but I really love the idea and think I might just steal it :)  It really helped me get through the day knowing that my MTBoS family always has my back! :)

My Favorite Lesson of the Week
Yesterday was our last classroom day of the week and I had two options - work a bit more on the Segment Addition Postulate or move on to the next section in Geometry.  I also knew that my students had a 4 day weekend and it would be a while before I saw them again, so I opted for the Segment Addition and I'm so glad I did!  This also gave me the opportunity to introduce our Red/Yellow/Green cups and all in all, it was such a fabulous day of engagement and discussion.  One of my Geo kiddos made a comment at the end of class about how fast the day had gone and that we should do this with every lesson because that was "way more fun than a worksheet!"  Another student at that table said "Yeah! And I think I learned more algebra in the past 30 minutes than I ever knew!"  Once again, I am reminded that the best teaching days are the days when I just sit back and let the kids do their thing. :)

My Favorite Use of Desmos

In Stat, we just wrapped up sampling and are moving on to Experimental Design.  Yesterday in class, we took a quiz and after their quiz, I tried something new.  Our lesson for next Tuesday involves the vocabulary of experiments, so instead of taking class time for taking notes, I decided to do it as a Desmos activity for after their quiz.  In general, I had notes screens with the vocabulary, then a few MC questions sprinkled in for them to "test themselves".  I had never done this type of activity before, but I really liked it!

Happy Friday, y'all! :)

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Evolutions in Teaching

This month, I'm participating in a blog challenge called Blaugust.  To see the list of participating blogs, click on the logo above. I would encourage to you please cheer on our participants with either a tweet or a comment on their blog during this month. It can be hard to blog on a daily (or even regular) schedule! :)  If you would like to join the blogging challenge, you can still sign-up anytime!

August is almost over and yet again, I have not made my Blaugust goal - BUT - ultimately, the point of Blaugust is to get me back into the habit of sharing about my classroom and I *have* achieved that, so go me!  Thank you ALL for reading, responding, sharing, and commenting on my posts and the other Blaugust participants.  It's such a great resource of ideas and inspirations for back to school and I appreciate you!.

I've now been back to school for 2.5 weeks and I'm making good progress on my goals!  I have so many blog posts floating in my head, but by the time I get home and get things ready for the next day, I'm utterly exhausted!

But tonight I want to reflect on one of my goals and how things have evolved in my classroom over the past few years. :)

Multiple Choice Mondays - Version 1
Each Monday, my AP students do a MC Monday consisting of 5 questions over material we've learned (or previous content, like ACT style questions).

However, I didn't want them just to do the MC questions and be done - I wanted my students to reflect on their learning.  This is a common theme in my classroom and I often ask students to write / reflect / summarize to help them solidify the material.  So on Mondays they do their MC and put it back into their table folder.  The next day, the reflection part on the back is their warmup.  For the first 1 (or maybe 2... I don't remember), this was the back of the MC Monday.  The Analysis at the top had a place for the correct answers, whether they got it right or wrong, the type of error, and whether they needed to study that concept.  The bottom was a reflection grid (inspired by the assessment grid that @pamjwilson has blogged about before), with various prompts.  Overall, I liked this, but kids would often write the same thing week to week and weren't really using the grid the way I had envisioned it, so back to the drawing board...

Multiple Choice Mondays - Version 2
So the following year (Year 3 I think?), I changed it...  I had discussed some of my frustrations with the grid with my neighbor teacher and she was having some of the same issues.  Both of us really liked having a place to ask questions and have a dialogue with our students, but decided that maybe we needed to be a bit more specific with the other prompts.

As a result, Version 2 was born, with the prompts asking about which questions they felt most confident about (and why), and least confident about (and why).  We tried to impress on the students that most / least confident is NOT about getting the answer right, it's about how you felt regarding the material.  However, that was an uphill battle as even at the end of the year, I was still having to make the speech about "Remember - confidence is NOT about the answer - it's about the question!"  I did have some great comments and questions from my students on the "I have the following questions..." prompt, but I was disappointed in the most / least confident prompts, so back to the drawing board - AGAIN...

Multiple Choice Mondays - Version 3
I'm really hoping that the third time really is a charm...

During the teacher work-days, I *still* hadn't figured out how I wanted to change the MC Monday Reflections, but I knew that it needed to happen.  I popped by neighbor teacher's room to see if she had any brainstorms and she was as stuck as I am.  Both of us wanted to keep an area for students to ask questions, but that was about all we knew.  I mentioned to neighbor teacher that I really wanted to incorporate more vocab review into the class with "Terms Tuesday / Words Wednesday" and wondered about using the MC Monday to help drive that.  Thankfully, she loved the idea and our latest version was born.  The Analysis box got simplified a bit with the last columns being combined into a spot for students to write themselves notes, then the general reflection area that combines multiple prompts into one, and finally the Terms Tuesday / Words Wednesday box.

So this week was our first MC Monday and I *LOVED* it!  It was so much fun to do the vocab and I think they really enjoyed practicing their retrieval skills to see if they could recall the words we had learned so far.  I'm super excited to see how this plays out over the year, but we might have a winner - plus, it helps me meet my vocabulary goal!  YAY!

If you have suggestions on how to improve this further, please let me know :)

Friday, August 24, 2018

#MyFavFriday - First Full Week Done!

This month, I'm participating in a blog challenge called Blaugust.  To see the list of participating blogs, click on the logo above. I would encourage to you please cheer on our participants with either a tweet or a comment on their blog during this month. It can be hard to blog on a daily (or even regular) schedule! :)  If you would like to join the blogging challenge, you can still sign-up anytime!

What a week!!!  This was our first full week with students and I definitely had a few days where I needed multiple cups of coffee to get my through, but I'm super excited about this year! 

While I definitely love the new start (and the new school supplies)  that comes with teaching, I definitely forget how tiring it is to teach procedures.  How to start class, how to end class, how to end the day, how to ask to use the restroom, how to clean up your area, how to check your homework, how to, how to, how to!  But I also know that patiently teaching those procedures will pay off in the end :)

But now, on to the favorites of the week!

My Favorite Start to School
I posted last weekend a bit about the start of school and my usage of the YouCubed Week of Inspirational Math Videos.  On Day 1 (last Friday), we did the first video, a reflection, and then started working on the 4 4s problem.  This week, on Monday, I shared a summary of their 4 4s and challenged them to keep going.  I also showed them the area where I keep track of their thinking each week.  The 4 4s is the first time in the year that I've done this challenge that the week ended with some still being blank.  However, I was pleased to see kiddos working on it in their spare time!  Also on Monday, we watched video #3 and then on Tuesday/Wednesday (our block day), we watched video #5.  I had *so many* students reflect on Monday about how powerful it was to be told that it's okay not to be fast in math!  I shared some of my own struggles with being slow with math, specifically arithmetic and the anxiety of timed tests.  Many of them nodded their heads as they remembered their own history with math anxiety... 

My Favorite Number Talk
One of my goals this year is to work on number sense.  In the YouCubed materials, one of the lesson plans refers to a Number Talk.  Earlier in the summer, there had been talk of a book chat over Making Number Talks Matter, so with the support of a group of MTBoS teachers, I jumped in.  In the picture, you can see our day to day progression from our first Number Talk on Monday through the last one on Thursday.  Today, I had hoped to get one in with numbers but I needed to teach homework procedures, so the Number Talk got postponed.  I love that by Thursday, they were VERY open to different ways of seeing things!  One of the questions that a student last on their Video #1 reflection last week was about why they didn't always understand when the teacher explained something.  I was able to use the Number Talks this week to share that each of us see things differently, so sometimes communication breaks down because people can only see things one way.  Overall, Number Talks have already enriched my classroom and I can't wait to keep going!

My Favorite Forensics Lab
I haven't posted much about Forensics so far this year, mainly because I keep forgetting to take pictures! :)  My co-teacher and I have really worked hard to develop some changes that will hopefully make this year run smoothly.  This week, the students worked on their first "lab" where we teach them how to organize their data and how we want them to write their lab conclusions.  Today we worked on making big poster-sized versions of their conclusions to walk them step by step through what we want, then on Monday, we'll do a Gallery Walk of their Claims - Evidence - Reasoning process.  I'm really excited to see their finished products next week because so far, they are *rocking* it!  Next week, we'll start working on observation skills and how to process a crime scene.  :)

My Favorite Pretties
I know this is super silly, but for some reason, last week I got the hankering to make new labels for my binders. (You know - because I didn't have anything better to do - like, oh say, lesson plans!)  Then, as we were setting up our INBs this week, I was really bummed by how blah the default composition notebook label was and decided my notebooks needed pretty labels too.  :) 

Maybe I'm finally at the school supply overload and have regressed back to finding happiness in the little things.  I got a new lanyard with snap charms to switch out and that has made me crazy happy too. :)  Hopefully I'm not the only one that goes through these phases!

And now, the weekend is here.  I have a very lengthy to-do list that will be ambitious to get it all done, but for now I'm feeling really optimistic! 

Happy Friday, all! :)

Sunday, August 19, 2018

First Days of WIM

This month, I'm participating in a blog challenge called Blaugust.  To see the list of participating blogs, click on the logo above. I would encourage to you please cheer on our participants with either a tweet or a comment on their blog during this month. It can be hard to blog on a daily (or even regular) schedule! :)  If you would like to join the blogging challenge, you can still sign-up anytime!

In Geometry this year, I am trying something new to me.  In the past, I've done something math-y on Day 1, then set up Notebooks and start teaching on Day 2.

But this year, inspired by my state's "Unit 0", which ties into Jo Boaler's Week of Inspirational Math, I am using some of the YouCubed Videos in my first few days.  (Note:  There are 3 "weeks" - I am using Week 1 for Grades 5-9+ because the Week 2 and 3 videos are just a bit too cheesy for me)

For Day 1 of Geometry, we pretty much did the WIM Day 1 lesson plan as written, other than starting out with Name Tents as a getting to know you activity.  We watched the first video and students filled in the paper at the left with 5 things they learned from the video and a question they had.  Then, we followed up with what good group work looks like and the 4 4s problem.

I did not know what to expect and how the kids would respond to a 4 minute research based video to start the year.  But to be honest, the thing that blew me away and what truly sold me on doing this in the future were the take-aways and questions the kids asked.  Here are some of my favorites:

Things they learned:

  • The more you work your brain the more the brain grows.
  • Stop practicing = your brain shrinks
  • If you are not so good at Math but your friends are, you can catch them up by practicing more than they do.
  • Nobody is born good at math, your attitude towards it is based on experience.
  • If you review, stuff in your brain grows and stays
  • The more you think and the harder you think, the bigger and faster your brain grows
  • Synapses fire with every conversation, lesson, and experience
  • Being a taxi driver in London makes you smarter for the time you're a taxi driver
  • Your brain can rewire and grow from working on something for 6 minutes every day for a couple of weeks.

Questions they had:

  • How strong can the rewire be, since we forget most things during the summer?
  • Does age make a difference?
  • How much can your brain grow?
  • If our brain can grown, then does our head also grow as our brain grows?
  • It is easy to be a math person if you put your mind set to it, however why is it hard to [put] your mind to it?
  • I wonder what would happen to my brain if I started on math earlier in life.  Would I be more advanced?
  • How many methods will we be given to accomplish this?  Will we work, therefore, in smaller increments , since the mind can, normally, really only access only so much at once?
  • How do you make an experience stick for a long period of time?
  • Why are certain people more determined in certain tasks?
  • How do I become a math person?  
  • Can your knowledge be limited depending on your brain size?
  • How much does your brain change over the course of your life?
  • If our brain grows and shrinks, how does your skill compensate for its flexibility?
  • Why do some people brain work faster than others when it comes to math?
  • Why do the taxi drivers brains shrink, shouldn't they have retained the knowledge?

I love that some of these questions will be things we are able to tackle tomorrow! :)