Sunday, November 30, 2014

#MTBoSChallenge - Weekly Summary - Week 16

Welcome to the #MTBoSChallenge! 

Each week there are two options:
  • On Saturdays, you can choose to blog on a weekly prompt.  Go check out the awesome and amazing posts submitted this week at Middle School Math Rules.  No worries if you didn't blog yesterday, you can still submit your post using the linky at the bottom of her post.
  • On Sundays, you can choose to blog a Sunday Summary of your week.  The idea for the Summary is to provide you a way to reflect on the past week and share what you are looking forward to this coming week.
Feel free to choose either option (or BOTH!), add it to the linky on the host page and don't forget to tweet it with the hashtag #MTBoSChallenge as well!

Now on to my post for the day...

My Sunday 3-2-1 Summary

3 goals for December:
  • Exercise more!  I've figured out a few ways to get more steps in my day, so my goal is to get back to hitting 10K steps on a regular basis.  It will help me lose the couple of pounds gained this week, too! :)
  • Wrap up the semester!  There are only 3 weeks left in the semester and I have a ton to get done before final exams.  
  • Get my shopping done early! I'm a slight procrastinator when it comes to holiday shopping, so this year, I would really like to get it done well in advance. We'll see if it happens! :)

2 things I accomplished this week:
  • Cleaned out my closet!  One of the things I really wanted to get done this week was to clean out my closet and take out the things that no longer fit.  While I was at it, I decided to inventory the clothes I have.  I have too many clothes... :(
  • New cut and color!  After a family gathering this weekend, I saw the pictures and realized I really needed a haircut!  I went to my hairdresser and thankfully she had time for a cut and a color.  She chopped off about 3 inches (maybe more?) and gave me a new color job that I love! 

1 thing I'm thankful for today:
  • My family!  This week was a time of fun, food, fellowship, and family.  I ate too much, laughed a lot, and in general, truly enjoyed my Thanksgiving break.  I hope all of you had a very restful break!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

NaBloPoMo - Day 19 - High Praise from a Kiddo

You know those days when you just want to take a moment at the end of the day and yell, "NAILED IT!" at the top of your lungs?

In #EduRead, we've been reading The Highly Engaged Classroom, so I've been thinking even more than usual about student engagement and how I can design lessons that incorporate movement and other engagement strategies.  Yesterday afternoon, as I was putting today's lesson together, I was trying to figure out a way to use the first 20 minutes of the block period to review for a quiz that we were having today.  In the past, I've given the students time to study on their own, but this time, I decided to do something a bit more structured.

Enter in the awesomeness that is Kate Nowak.
(Someday, when I grow up, I want to be like Kate... and Sam... and Pam... and Hedge... and Julie...and Beth.. and Elizabeth... and Glenn...  and all my other amazeball MTBoS friends!)
(P.S. I did not mean to leave anyone out... but I would totally run out of room if I listed all 400 or so of you!  Please realize that I love and cherish all of you!)

See, Kate wrote this little blog post over at her blog back in 2009 called Speed Dating.  Little did I know that 5 years later, I would be finally figuring out how to use it in my classroom!

Kids came in the room today and the desks were not arranged like they were yesterday.  It cracks me up to see how much kids freak out when the desks are moved!  Instead of 8 groups of 4 desks, there were 2 long rows of 8 pairs of desks facing each other.  Since they knew they had a quiz today, the immediate question that I answered (over and over and over again) was, "Are we having a partner quiz?!?!"  ummmm, nope!

On each desk, I had a laminated card that dealt with this chapter's material.  Mostly stuff like interpreting slope, y-intercept, r-squared, using their calculator, finding residuals, etc.  (Note, if you're an AP Stat teacher and want the file, just leave me your email in the comments and I'll get it to you!).  Last year, I used the cards to do Quiz Quiz Trade, but this year, I wanted to do something different.  I gave the students 3 minutes to work the problem on their desk, check the answer on the back, and become the "expert" on that problem.  Then they exchanged cards with their partner, worked that problem, got feedback and help from the "expert", etc.  All in all, I allowed time for them to work their original problem, plus 5 more from the partners.

During 3rd hour block, I had an even number of students, so I simply observed.  At first, I was worried that maybe it wasn't working, but no biggie, it's a learning curve.  After we were done, we rearranged the room to take the quiz, and low and behold, the kids were all done with plenty of time to spare and no grumbling afterwards!  At the end of the hour, one of my students said, "Mrs. Teacher, can we do that before every quiz?  That really helped me!"  I was happy to hear the praise, but honestly I wasn't sure how much it helped.  Then 6th hour rolled around and I only had an odd number of students, so I had to join in to be a partner.  My original card was about calculating a residual, then my other 5 problems were about interpreting slope (twice), interpreting r-squared, calculating y-intercept from the formula and interpreting it, and using my calculator to find the regression equation.  I was shocked at how many things I reviewed (and reviewed well!) in that 20 minute time span!  Again, I had kiddos praising the activity as a great way to review for the quiz.  In my 17 years of teaching, I have learned that if the kids give kudos to an activity, then it's something that I want to use again!

If you haven't tried Speed Dating, I definitely encourage you to give it a shot!  This will definitely be a keeper in my play book.

Thanks Kate!

Today I'm Thankful For:
The amazeball teachers of the MTBoS.  I'm so happy that I'm part of a community that really cares about me as a person and as a professional.  We have a little (or not so little anymore) family that really wants to help everyone become a better teacher.  There is genuine concern in helping others grow as professionals, as seen through the constant sharing of resources and lesson plans on the blogs and twitter accounts of the MTBoS members.  The best part is having a network of people around the globe that truly GET me.  I struggle to "turn off" my teacher side and it's awesome to have people around me that understand that struggle.  Thank you for opening up your classroom virtually so that I can share in your joys and frustrations.  But most importantly, thank you for being you!! :) 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

NaBloPoMo - Day 18 - A Fly on the Wall

From Chapter 2 of The Highly Engaged Classroom by Marzano:
When presenting new content, it is important to consistently monitor the pace at which information is being presented.  Detailed attention to content students already know may bore them, creating a slow or dragging pace.  However, moving too quickly through new content may frustrate students because they will not feel they have had adequate time to process what they have learned.  In general, teachers should present information in small pieces or chunks of knowledge.  After each chunk, students in small groups interact by summarizing or answering a question about what was presented.  Some teachers refer to this sequence as "chunk and chew."
This paragraph from Marzano made me think... If I were a student in my classroom, what would I think about the pacing?  Is it too fast?  Too slow?  Do I have enough processing time between activities? 

I know that I try to incorporate processing strategies in my class, such as Turn and Talk, but do I do enough of them to really allow students to process well?  I need to incorporate more QuickWrites and other quick summarizing strategies. 

I wish I was a fly on the wall in other classrooms - how do other teachers incorporate these strategies?

Today I'm Thankful For:
Warmer weather!  After a very frigid start to the day where we actually set new record low temps of 14 degrees (OMG!), the afternoon warmed up to a balmy 48 degrees!  It was like a heat wave!  I even walked outside without a coat!  I'm so ready for winter to be over :(

Monday, November 17, 2014

NaBloPoMo - Day 17 - Winter, Go Away!

I know I had several ideas pop up throughout the day to blog about, but sometime between then and now, they floated away.  I'm going to blame it on my chilly classroom.  When I got to school this morning, the thermostat said 65 degrees and it didn't go much higher than that all day.  I know it's hard to keep the room toasty warm when the daytime high is 34, so I'm really looking forward to warmer temps later this week.

Thanksgiving is almost here.  It's always been my favorite holiday - food, family, and minimal drama.  However, this year will be a bit odd as our family transitions to the first holiday season without several key people.  As a result, our Thanksgiving plans were definitely up in the air until Hub's cousin messaged me yesterday to invite us to her house for dinner.  I'm rather jealous of Hub's family in general... he is the oldest of 6 or so cousins that are all within a few years of each other and they are just some of the most genuine people in the world.  I told the cousin that I would help with the cooking, so please send any favorite appetizer or dessert recipes my way!

Today I'm Thankful For:
Pinterest!  From outfit inspiration to yummy recipes, Pinterest always comes through for me.  Tonight I made brownies and found an outfit for tomorrow.. how awesome is that? :)  I'm such a visual person that I really love being able to bookmark pictures.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

NaBloPoMo - Day 16 - Sunday Summary Week 14

Welcome to the #MTBoSChallenge! 

Each week there are two options:
  • On Saturdays, you can choose to blog on a weekly prompt.  Go check out the awesome and amazing posts submitted this week at Middle School Math Rules.  No worries if you didn't blog yesterday, you can still submit your post using the linky at the bottom of her post.
  • On Sundays, you can choose to blog a Sunday Summary of your week.  The idea for the Summary is to provide you a way to reflect on the past week and share what you are looking forward to this coming week.
Feel free to choose either option (or BOTH!), add it to the linky on the host page and don't forget to tweet it with the hashtag #MTBoSChallenge as well!

Now on to my post for the day...

My Sunday 3-2-1 Summary

3 things I'm excited about this week:
  • The return of warmer weather!!  After a week of 35 degree days, I'm done with winter and ready for the return of higher temps.  By mid-week, we are supposed to be back in the 50s, which is MUCH closer to our typical November weather!
  • Baking!!  I have some new recipes I want to try out before Thanksgiving.  That means that my coworkers will be reaping the benefits :)
  • #EduRead of course!  Last week was such an awesome chat that I'm really looking forward to this week too!  Read the Storify of last week's convo:  Click here

2 things on my to-do list:
  • Catch up on grading!  I gave a project last week and now I have 130 posters to grade... UGH! :)  On the positive side, they look really cool!  To top it off, my kids have a quiz this week too! :(
  • Work on Making Thinking Visible!  I have fallen down the past few weeks on this one.  I really would like for someone to be able to walk into my room after hours and be able to see what all we have done.  Right now, it feels very generic in my room once the kids are gone. :(

1 thing I'm thankful for today:
  • Snow!!  Today was the first snow of the season, which is way earlier than normal.  However, there is just something peaceful about watching the snow drift down and cover the ground.  Thankfully our ground temps are still warm, so it will go away soon! :)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

NaBloPoMo - Day 15 - #5Things

The hardest part of this blogging every day gig is that once I miss a day, it is that much harder to get back into the habit.  Thursday night, I had my browser open, wanting to type something, anything, but after three hours, a blank screen still stared back at me.  I finally gave up, thinking I would just make up for it on Friday.  Problem is, that on Friday, about 20 minutes after getting home, I fell asleep on the couch and that was the end of that. :)

Anywho... I decided I should post my #5Things Friday today... a day late is better than not at all, right? :)

#5Things I'm currently obsessed with...

  1. Clothes!  Hubby and I got into a bit of a tiff today because he is (understandably) getting frustrated with my need want desire to shop a lot.  I really do understand where he is coming from because I was a pretty low maintenance wife until the past 6 months or so.  As I've lost weight, I've spent a lot more time checking pinterest for outfit ideas to help me define my style as I rebuild my wardrobe. Since March 2013, I have cleaned out my closet several times as I moved down in sizes, so I have to keep refilling it! :)
  2. Jewelry!  Similar to the clothing issue, I was never really one to wear a lot of jewelry, other than some simple hoop earrings.  I'm currently obsessed with necklaces and have at least 100 different ones, although many of them were purchased at a much reduced price!  I love checking my local Goodwill for new necklaces!
  3. Pinterest!  (see above...)  I can easily lose hours browsing on pinterest!  I'm such a visual person that the pinterest method of bookmarking is a life saver for me.
  4. Lip Balm!  This has been an obsession for a long time... I am never too far away from one of my lip balms!  My current favorite is my EOS egg... I have one on my desk at work, one in my purse, and one beside my bed.  
  5. Books!  Anyone that knows me well knows that I adore books.  My office has 4 floor to ceiling book cases and 2 smaller bookcases.  My bedroom has a large wall unit.  My classroom has multiple shelves dedicated to books as well.  My Kindle has thousands of books on it (mostly free... is awesome!)  A colleague yesterday referred to me as "one of the best read teachers she knows".  I wear that title with pride.  I've always loved books and bookstores rank up there as one of my favorite places.  (Side note:  Today we went to Half Price Books and for the first time in ages, I went to 3 of them and walked out empty handed each time!  That's unheard of for me!)

Today I'm Thankful For:
My kitty cats!  There's just something very comforting about the sound of a kitty purring in your lap while you read a book or surf the internet.  Even better is when they snuggle on a cold night to help keep you warm! :)  While animals can make life a bit interesting because you never quite know what mischief they will get themselves into, the positive definitely outweighs the frustrations. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

NaBloPoMo - Day 12 - Introverts in the Classroom

So many thoughts are buzzing in my head tonight after #EduRead!

#EduRead is a Twitter based "book club" that reads professional educational literature (articles, books, etc) and then discusses them on Wednesday night's at 8pm Central Time.  Tonight we started The Highly Engaged Classroom by Robert Marzano and I have to say I am *pumped* about this book! 

One of the topics that came up in discussion tonight was compiling a list of student engagement strategies to use in our classrooms.  I love this idea, but I struggle with it as well.  I have researched student engagement a lot over the past few years and I have an entire binder full of printouts of engagement strategies.  However, in that huge list of ideas, I know I might use just a fraction of them.

Confession Time
One of the most ironic things in my classroom is that I ask my students to do things that I totally would hate doing. :)  (That's the fun of being the one in charge, right?!?)  For example, today I asked my students to draw a large tic-tac-toe grid on a page in their notebook.  In the top row, they wrote three things they've learned this chapter.  Then they had to get up and go find 6 more people and exchange notebooks with them and write down something in one of the remaining empty squares.  My students likened this to a "yearbook signing party".  They seemed to have fun, but for me, I would have *hated* this as a student. :)

Hi!  I'm Druin and I'm an Introvert!
I am a very introverted person.  I'm not shy, but I definitely like my quiet time and my privacy.  When I'm at workshop or something, I tend to be the person in the back corner that really hates to get up and talk to others.  I find it extremely uncomfortable to step outside of my personal zone and a lot of people think I'm a total snob when they first meet me.  An activity like I did today would drive me crazy as a student, even though I understand the research behind it and fully agree with the *why* to do it.  This introversion comes out in my lesson planning as well because there are a lot of strategies I would not use simply because the strategy would stress me out.  As a result, I tend to use the same strategies (or variations on them) often.

Help me break out of my rut! :)
What are some of your favorite strategies for getting students involved in your classroom?

Today I'm Thankful For:
A working heater!  Monday was a gorgeous 79 degrees.  Today's high was 33.  Oh.Em.Gee.  That's stinking COLD!  Yesterday, hubby was off for Veteran's Day, so he arranged for the heating and air company to come out to do our yearly furnace inspection.  I still can't believe that on Monday the a/c was going and now I need the heater 24/7.  :)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

NaBloPoMo - Day 11 - On the Personal Side of Life

**Note:  This post is a deviation from my normal math teacher stuff.. tune in tomorrow instead :) **

In March 2013, I embarked on a journey to change my lifestyle and to lose quite a bit of weight.  It was motivated by multiple factors, but one factor was definitely that I felt older than I actually was.  Over the past 20 months, I've had to purchase an entire new wardrobe and my goal was a fairly classic look, while still maintaining an appropriate wardrobe for my age.  That search for age-appropriate business attire lead me to many Pinterest boards and a lot of fashion blogs.  For someone who has always been pretty low maintenance, it has been an interesting transition to being a "girl". :)  Even one of my colleagues remarked this morning about how two years ago, she would have never guessed that I would wear skirts and dresses more than I wear slacks! :)

So why am I talking about fashion blogs on a math teacher website?!?! 

Today, as I watched the clock, preparing for Global Math to start, I was reading some of my favorite fashion blogs and read this post by Caitlyn at Greater Than Rubies.  Caitlyn asks two questions:
  • What is one thing you’re cultivating right now that you’re excited about?
  • What is one thing you want to cut off or pare down?
(I definitely recommend going to read the rest of Caitlyn's post... it's pretty thought provoking)

Caitlyn's post came at just the right time because I was having these thoughts today, hours prior to reading her post.  Sometimes I get so wrapped up in the detail junk that I can't see the forest for the trees.  Things that I'm excited about end up getting pushed aside because of the to-do list that is never ending. 

To honestly answer Caitlyn's questions, one thing that I'm excited about is the return of #EduRead tomorrow night.  I've neglected my personal growth over the past few months because I was trying to deal with too much.  Sometimes, I need to learn to be selfish.  To do things because it's the best thing for ME at that moment.  I'm not sure (yet) what to cut off or pare down.... I'll have to do some more thinking on that one!

Today I'm Thankful For:
My freedom.  Today is Veteran's Day and I want to take a minute to thank all of the veterans out there.  My dad and my step-dad both served in the armed forces and it's because of them that I'm happy to celebrate the freedoms that we enjoy.  My dad was in the Navy, serving as a cook on a ship during peace time.  My step-dad was a Marine, serving during the Korean War and was one of the "Frozen Chosin".  My deepest thanks to all veterans - without you, our country would be vastly different.

Monday, November 10, 2014

NaBloPoMo - Day 10 - Covering vs. Teaching

For some reason, I've been really sensitive to the idea of covering vs. teaching material lately.  I know I've been guilty of saying, "But I know I covered that!", rather than focusing on whether I *taught* it or not.  This is the first year in many, many years that I know that I will not get to everything in the AP Stat syllabus.  Pacing wise, I'm about a week behind where I wanted to be and I'm going to have to be okay with that. 

Part of the difficulty is my class makeup.  I have classes of 32 and 33 and try as I may, I just can't cram the same amount of material into a 55 minute class with 32 students than I could when I had 25 per class.  Add that to the mixture of students and it's tough.  I love my students and I've really got a great group this year, but I also have kids that had Calc 3 last year sitting next to students that made a D in Algebra 2.  The wide variety of students makes differentiation a necessity but it also means that some kids are ready to move on well before the others are.

I feel like there are better connections being made and better conversations being had, so I'm hoping the depth will make up for some of the width that I'm going to end up lacking in the end.  I want to make sure students are absorbing the information for the long term and I'm not just "covering" it to check it off my list.

I want to teach, but sometimes I fall into the habit of covering, especially when I start to panic about getting everything done.  How do I break out of that rut? :(

Today I'm Thankful For:
One last beautiful fall day before the bottom drops out! Today was an absolutely gorgeous day, with highs near 80. I set my timer on my phone for 20 minutes, then went for a walk around the building just to soak up some Vitamin D and fresh air. Tomorrow's high temperature is 43... BRRR!!!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

NaBloPoMo - Day 9 - MTBosChallenge - Week 13

Welcome to the #MTBoSChallenge! 

Each week there are two options:
  • On Saturdays, you can choose to blog on a weekly prompt.  Go check out the awesome and amazing posts submitted this week at Middle School Math Rules.  No worries if you didn't blog yesterday, you can still submit your post using the linky at the bottom of her post.
  • On Sundays, you can choose to blog a Sunday Summary of your week.  The idea for the Summary is to provide you a way to reflect on the past week and share what you are looking forward to this coming week.
Feel free to choose either option (or BOTH!), add it to the linky on the host page and don't forget to tweet it with the hashtag #MTBoSChallenge as well!

Now on to my post for the day...

My Sunday 3-2-1 Summary

3 random thoughts in my head:
  • NaBloPoMo is much easier than the July Blogging Challenge.  It's now day 9 and I'm still able to blog without wanting to throw in the towel.  Obviously, I have more to say during the school year than during the summer.  I want to use this month to help me reflect on my classroom and my practice. 
  • This week totally sucked in a lot of ways.  I hate those weeks where you second guess every decision you made.  I need to remember to focus on the good things - my students and ignore some of the other junk that creates stress and hassle in my life.  I really don't like feeling like I'm one step away from letting everyone down.
  • This is the time of year where I feel like I'm in a major rut.  I need to find a way to snap out of it.

2 things I'm excited about this week:
  • #EduRead!  I think I've posted about #EduRead almost every day this week. :)  Please join us at 8pm Central on Wednesday to discuss The Highly Engaged Classroom by Marzano.
  • Global Math Department!  Bob Lochel and I are presenting on Tuesday night about the stat standards in the CCSS.  Bob is a rockstar... you don't want to miss hearing him speak about awesome activities that you can use in your classroom!

1 thing I'm thankful for today:
  • Weekends!  This has been a stressful year and I've really tried to take advantage of my weekend time to relax.  I end up going to school one of the days, but on the other day, I try to do my best to not think about school at all.  I love snuggling under the warm blankets on a chilly morning and being able to relax with a good book. :)

Saturday, November 8, 2014

NaBloPoMo - Day 8 - How to get them moving?

Today was a lazy day at home, catching up on TV shows and generally being a total couch potato. :)  Finally, around 3pm, I did go shower and head to Wal-Mart just to get out of the house for a bit.  I was so glad I did because I ended up buying several necklaces that were on clearance for $3! :)  Yay!

When I got back home, I decided to finish my chapter for #EduRead (The Highly Engaged Classroom by Marzano) in preparation for Wednesday night's chat.  The chapter was good, but I still feel myself drawn to the section about physical movement.

From the book:
"Oxygen is essential for brain function, and enhanced blood flow increases the amount of oxygen transported to the brain.  Physical activity is a reliable way to increase blood flow, and hence oxygen, to the brain" (Jenson 2005 pg 62)
My district already uses some of this research to support a program where some of our struggling students are enrolled in an physical education type program directly before their most challenging subject, typically English or Math.  However, I'm more personally invested in my own classroom... how can I use this research to help my students?

My main question for myself is how can I use physical movement within my classroom to increase student engagement and therefore achievement?  Some of the strategies I've used:
  • Inside-Outside Circle
  • Whip Around
  • Jigsaw
  • Around the World reviews
  • Gallery Walk
I'm running out of ideas to use these strategies in new ways and about new strategies to use.  :(

What are your favorite activities to get your kids out of their seats and moving around?

Today I'm Thankful For:
Friendships of a Lifetime!  I'm so blessed to have some really good friends that have stood the test of time.  Tonight I was reminded of that yet again, as I visited with one of my dearest friends.  I love those friendships where you can be apart for awhile, but when you are together, it's like no time has passed at all.  :)

Friday, November 7, 2014

NaBloPoMo - Day 7 - #5Things


It's been a very long week... one that I thought would never come to an end!  Today was actually the first day this week that I got my 10K steps in and that's because it was finally nice enough to walk to dinner with the hubby!  However, next week is supposed to have a MAJOR cold front, with highs in the 40s and nighttime lows in the 20s... BRRRR

With cold weather quickly approaching, here's a #5Things post about some of my favorite winter related things..

1)  Fleece lined tights!  OMG, where have I been the past few years?  These things are *a-maze-ing* and I encourage you to rush out and buy some right away!  I love that I will still be able to wear dresses and skirts this winter!

2)  Soup and Chili!  There's just something about colder weather that makes me crave potato soup and Frito chili pies!  Total comfort food for cold weather :)

3)  Remote Start!  I will NEVER again own a car that doesn't have a remote start option!  I absolutely adore that I can be getting ready in the morning, start my car from inside my warm house, and by the time I'm ready to leave, my car is toasty warm and ready for me to zoom off to school.

4)  Holidays!  To be honest, I'm not a huge fan of Christmas, but I really do love Thanksgiving.  I love having the opportunity to spend time with family without the stress and hassle of gifts.  The yummy food (read: desserts) doesn't hurt either!

5)  Fuzzy Blankets!  I've already shared my thankfulness for fuzzy blankets, but they make the winter so much better.  Last night, I even slept with one wrapped around me and it was the best night of sleep in ages!  I love the snuggly warmth of fuzzy blankets :)

Have a great weekend! :)

Today I'm Thankful For:
My neighborhood.  I truly love that we live in an area where we have easy access to several restaurants, shopping, movies, etc within a few minutes walk.  Tonight's walk to dinner originally started as a walk to a local Mexican restaurant, then due to a line and a longer wait than we wanted, we walked to a local pizza place instead.  Sadly, once the cold hits, we won't walk as much, but spring will be back soon!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

NaBloPoMo - Day 6 - Student Engagement

I know I've mentioned multiple times that my focus this year is on Student Engagement and tonight, that focus really hit home for me...
Once a month, I get to spend time with the awesome Sarah from Math=Love and we get to do math together.  I know that totally sounds like a nerd thing to do, but hey, what can I say... I'm a nerd! :)  Tonight was the monthly meeting of our local chapter of the Math Teachers Circle and one of the opening problems was this one:
I was fascinated by this idea of a Friedman number.  It reminded me of the game "24", which I've always loved.  My engagement level during this part of the evening was extremely high.
Then, the discussion moved to some other topic and involved proving something about relative prime numbers.  My attention started to waver as people that are WAY smarter than I'll ever be jumped right into an abstract algebra proof.  My engagement level started to decline, which reminded me of yesterday's blog post about productive struggle and the importance of talking things out with your peers.  I found it interesting that the presenter even made the comment that he was talking too much instead of us.  As lost as I was in the conversation, I decided to go back to my Friedman number list and see how many of them I could figure out.  736 totally stumped me and I finally cheated by looking online.  :)
My experience made me think about what it feels like to be a student in my classroom.  Here are some thoughts from my day:
1)  Deep thinking on a critical level is hard to do late in the day.  7:30 pm at night after a day of work and meetings is not the ideal time for me to think on an abstract algebra level.
2)  From yesterday's ASCD reference... the person talking is probably thinking. 
3)  A problem does not have to be real world to be engaging.  The puzzle aspect of the Friedman numbers fascinated me.
4)  How can I make sure to keep student engagement high?  How good am I at "reading the crowd" and making sure things are accessible to all levels?
I walked away tonight with a newfound appreciation for the works of Martin Gardner and with a ton of questions and thoughts on how I can engage my students at a deeper level.
Today I'm Thankful For:
My #EduRead book club!  Last night was the return of #EduRead after a month (or so) hiatus.  We will be reading and discussing the book The Highly Engaged Classroom by Marzano and last night we did a preview chat on what we believed student engagement to be, what we hoped to get out of the book study, and shared strategies we use to get kids up and moving.  You can read last night's chat archive via Storify.  If you would like to join us, we'd love to have you!  We use the hashtag #EduRead on Twitter at 8pm Central time on Wednesdays.  Next Wednesday, we will be discussing Chapter 1.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

NaBloPoMo - Day 5 - The Tale of Two Classes

It was the best of times... it was the worst of times...  Seriously.

Some background information for today's story:
  • I love my membership to ASCD.  Their monthly magazine, Educational Leadership, is simply awesome.  If you are looking for quality professional reading, I highly recommend a subscription to ASCD!
  • I am the AVID Coordinator for my school.  Each Wednesday, I send out a WICOR Wednesday strategy to the staff with an instructions on how to implement a classroom best practice strategy.
  • My school is on a modified block schedule, where 3 days a week we have a typical 6 period 55 minute day, and the other 2 days are 100 minute block periods and a homeroom class.  Today was a block day.

How much do I love ASCD?  Let me count the ways...
A few nights ago, I realized that November was here and therefore a new Educational Leadership magazine was waiting for me on my iPad.  The theme of this month's issue "Talking and Listening" and I wasn't quite prepared for the goodness that was inside!

One of the first articles was called Speaking Volumes by Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey and I was hooked.  My main goal this year is Student Engagement and for a few years, I've been trying to increase student-led discussion moments in my classroom. 

Some of my favorite quotes from the article:
... productive student talk can help a classroom move from good to great.
The person talking is probably thinking.
 It matters who's talking in class because the amount of talk that students do is correlated with their achievement. 
When students aren't asked to talk and think, well-meaning teachers fill the time with their own speaking.
Talking helps students clarify their understanding, and it helps teachers identify when to intervene.
When students have the opportunity to confront a problem with others, even when they initially fail at the task, they learn something from the experience...

How does that tie in with AVID?
I have been involved with our school's AVID program for years.  I served on the Site Team for a few years, then became an AVID elective teacher for a few years, and I'm currently in my 3rd year serving as our Site Coordinator.  One of my major passions is professional learning, which is part of the reason why I'm so active with #EduRead, doing book studies and other online PD opportunities.  When I became the Site Coordinator, I really wanted to reach out to our staff members and share easy to implement strategies that incorporate Writing, Inquiry, Collaboration, Organization, and Reading (WICOR).  As a result, WICOR Wednesday was born.  Each Wednesday of the school year, I type up a strategy and send it to the staff.  Today's strategy was inspired by the article Talking to Learn, also from this month's issue of Educational Leadership.

Time to tie it all together...
So today started like any other Wednesday... I have my planning period during the 1st block and I spent the first part of my plan typing up and sending out today's WICOR Wednesday strategy.  I used the rest of my planning time to cross a few more things off my to-do list and I also spent a bit of time looking over my lesson plan for today, practicing it in my head, looking at the flow and pacing of the block period. 

It was the worst of times...
My first class of a Wednesday block also happens to be my largest class of 33 students.  I started into my lesson and the first 30 minutes or so were going great.  After that, it went downhill.  I totally ignored everything that I knew to be true from the articles I had *just* re-read earlier this morning and ended up stealing the learning opportunity from my students.  Instead of letting them have the productive struggle that I knew was necessary, I felt myself taking more control and talking more than I should have.  This lack of student thinking really showed its ugly head in the last 20 minutes of class during some independent practice.  Since the students hadn't grappled with the topics on their own, the independent practice turned into a "run around the classroom putting out fires" situation for me.  I was NOT a happy camper by the time class ended and I had no one to blame but myself.. :(

It was the best of times...
My next (and last class) of a Wednesday block happens to be my smallest class of 28 students.  I started my lesson the same as the previous class and again things started out great. This time, though, I gave the students time to grapple with the material, to have the discussions and thinking time needed to "prime the pump" before I started with a mini lecture to solidify the thinking and answer the lingering questions.  I love walking around while students are talking.. I learn so much!  I can find out where my instructions are unclear, I can get a better glimpse into the student's level of understanding, and I watch students gain confidence with the academic language of statistics.  This time, the last 20 minutes was vastly different.  Students jumped into the independent practice time with more confidence, asking good questions of their groupmates, and referring to the appropriate notes without additional prompting from me.

Today held a powerful lesson for me as a teacher and can be summed up in just three words... BE LESS HELPFUL! :)

Today I'm Thankful For:
Dollar Tree!  Anyone that knows me, knows that I love and adore Dollar Tree.  I had a student last year buy me a giftcard to Dollar Tree because she knew I bought a lot of classroom supplies there.  Tonight, I literally went to Dollar Tree to buy paperclips and fully expected to only spend $2, only to walk out with $20 of stuff. :)  I'm a paperclip snob - I like the coated kind and hate the metal ones that snag the paper and I figure that 250 coated paperclips for a dollar is quite worth it.  Of course, that also means I have to walk down the office supply aisle... and then I walked out with 6 new packs of pens... :)  In my defense, 4 of the packs were a set of pens that I have loved for a while, but they stopped selling them at Dollar Tree.  The other two packs were RSVP Fine Point in black ink.  For some reason, those have a tendency to walk off from my desk way too often :(

Thank you Dollar Tree for letting me indulge my pen fetish :)

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

NaBloPoMo - Day 4 - Election Day

Today is Election Day and like many teachers in my state, I definitely exercised my right to vote.  The main election that affects me today is the State Superintendent race.  The incumbent was actually voted out in the primary back in June, after alienating many of the teachers in our state.  I had a lot of friends that actually switched their party registration just to be able to vote against the incumbent in the primaries.  Going into the election today, the two candidates were at a statistical dead heat, so it will be really interesting to see what happens as the results roll in.  It will also be interesting to see the impact of today's election as we move forward.  The past 4 years have been tough and we are all looking forward to new leadership at the state level.

On a different note:
Today was one of those days where I had several opportunities to experience that sucker punch feeling of kids dealing with way more than my homework assignment.  And I know that for every kid that does confide in a teacher, there are many, many more that hold it inside.  I try very hard to create a safe environment where students feel like I care about them and their feelings, but at the same time, I try to create appropriate boundaries.  My heart hurts for those students who are going through difficult times and I hope all of them have someone that they feel comfortable talking to.

Today I'm Thankful For:
My students.  I really couldn't ask for a better group of kids this year.  They are always willing to try something new, with a minimum amount of eye rolling that is inherent to teens.  In general, they are very supportive of one another and I'm so happy to have played a small part in their lives.  My advisory students have been with me since they entered the high school and now I have the pleasure of having many of them in my math class as well.  It's been fascinating to watch them grow up and mature.  I feel so blessed to work with such an amazing group of kiddos.

Monday, November 3, 2014

NaBloPoMo - Day 3 - Daylight Savings Time

I don't get Daylight Savings Time at all.  I mean, I understand the original reasoning behind it, but that reasoning seems not to hold true as much in present day.  Don't get me wrong, I love to "Fall Back" just as much as anyone else, but this darkness at 5:30pm is for the birds!  I'm often in my classroom well into the evening hours and I hate how dark my classroom gets.  Of course, having the lights go out every 10 minutes doesn't help either.  I know the motion sensor lights were a great energy saving feature, but seriously, who likes having to get up and walk around the room every 10 minutes?  :)  I really wish we could just stay on one time all year round.

Feeling Chilly...
Fall has finally arrived in my neck of the woods.  We've had a much warmer than normal fall so far and until this weekend, we've even had the a/c running.  Today's forecast called for a daytime high of 68, so I thought I would be okay to push off wearing (and buying) tights to go under my skirts/dresses.  WRONG!  Apparently Mother Nature disagreed with the weather forecast and while the air temperature might have been 68, there was definitely a brisk wind that made it feel colder.  As a result, my bare legs were quite chilly today!  Thankfully, last week, hubby randomly bought me a gift for my classroom that helped keep me toasty warm today...

Yes, ladies and gents, that is a warm, fuzzy lap blanket complete with many, many digits of pi...  I had to share it with my students today and they all loved it.  I loved that my legs were nice and toasty while at my desk grading... #littlethingsinlife

Today I'm Thankful For:
A job that I love.  Granted, there are definitely times that I get frustrated with some of the excess junk, but for the most part, I love what I do.  I teach at one of the best schools in my state.  I have amazing students.  I have coworkers that are more like family than friends.  I am blessed in so many ways.  I didn't plan to end up at my school, it was a total fluke, but I'm so glad for the path that brought me here.  It's been 15 years so far and I'm excited to see what the next 15 years brings.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

NaBloPoMo - Day 2 - #MTBoS Challenge - Week 12 - Sunday Summary

Welcome to the #MTBoSChallenge! 

Each week there are two options:
  • On Saturdays, you can choose to blog on a weekly prompt.  Go check out the awesome and amazing posts submitted this week at Middle School Math Rules.  No worries if you didn't blog yesterday, you can still submit your post using the linky at the bottom of her post.
  • On Sundays, you can choose to blog a Sunday Summary of your week.  The idea for the Summary is to provide you a way to reflect on the past week and share what you are looking forward to this coming week.
Feel free to choose either option (or BOTH!), add it to the linky on the host page and don't forget to tweet it with the hashtag #MTBoSChallenge as well!

Now on to my post for the day...

My Sunday 3-2-1 Summary

3 new Fall TV shows I'm enjoying:
  • Scorpion - A group of highly intelligent people create a "think-tank" company that helps solve government problems. 
  • Forever - A New York Medical Examiner who has been alive for 200 years. 
  • Madam Secretary - Tea Leoni as the Secretary of State. 

2 things I'm excited about this week:
  • Fall Back!  I love having the extra hour today.  I'm not crazy about the earlier sunset though. :(
  • Math Teachers Circle!  'Nuff said!

1 thing I'm thankful for today:
  • Fuzzy blankets!  Fall decided to finally arrive and after weeks of 70+ degree weather, we had our first freeze and daytime highs in the 50s this weekend.  Hubby and I haven't turned on the "real" heater yet since just two days ago, the a/c was running.  Instead we have opted for flannel pants and fuzzy blankets.  We purchased these amazing blankets from Sams Club a few weeks ago and I'm in LOVE!  Rush out and buy one.. it's so worth it! :)

Saturday, November 1, 2014

NaBloPoMo - Day 1 - November Goals

In case you haven't noticed, this blog has been a bit neglected lately.  This year has been quite busy and I am doing my best to keep my head above water most days.  I have been posting over at my 180blog, so it's been tough to think about what to write here.

Last year, hubby decided to try his hand at NaNoWriMo, where over the course of 30 days, he wrote an entire novel.  I have no desire or inclination to write a novel, so instead I did some research and found NaBloPoMo - National Blog Posting Month, where you try to blog daily for 30 days.  I did this back in July, but I want to try again.  In addition to writing daily, I want to also include a "Today I'm Thankful For:" section since November is a month of Thanksgiving.

If you want to join me, here are a few writing prompts that I found online if you need some inspiration:
Writing Prompts for November
November Prompts from BlogHer

November Goal:
My main goal this month is to engage with my Twitter PLN through our Book Club #EduRead.  We are going to be reading The Highly Engaged Classroom by Marzano.  Student engagement has been a major goal of mine this year and I am eager to start this book.  Please consider joining us on Twitter, Wednesday nights at 8pm Central to chat! 

Today I'm Thankful For:
My wonderful hubby!  We've been married for 16 years and he is my greatest supporter in so many ways.  This year has been tough on me and he has picked up the slack without missing a beat.  He truly puts my wants and needs ahead of his own.  He inspires me daily to be a better person and I'm so glad to share the journey of life with him by my side.