Sunday, June 25, 2017

Keeping Track of Ideas

Holy moly - three posts in three days!  To be honest, I'm afraid that if I stop now, it will be many months before I pick it up again!  I can't say for certain that this will be a constant habit, but a few days ago, Pam blogged about an upcoming webinar from Angela Watson on teacher self-care and referenced this podcast from Cult of Pedagogy.  One quote from the podcast has really stuck with me regarding habits:

So I'm going to try to form a habit of blogging.  I'm not saying that my posts will be profound or deep or high quality, but I'm going to at least try to blog regularly, to form a habit of a habit :)

Now on to the real reason for tonight's post - my reading list.  Or more accurately, keeping track of my reading list!

Seriously people, I am addicted to books.  I love books of all kinds and I love used book stores.  A few times a year, hubby and I will venture off just to visit the Half Price Book stores that are within driving distance, including going down to the Dallas area over Spring Break just to hit as many of the HPBs as possible in 2 days :)  Anytime I travel to an area that has an HPB, I am like a kid in a candy store.  To try to illustrate this point, the photo below shows the stack of professional books in my living room that I've purchased at HPB since Memorial Day, with most of them coming from the Kansas City area after the AP Reading was finished :)

I know... I have a problem :)

But they were on clearance!!!

And the teacher discount!!!  (plus they stacked the Memorial Day coupon for the ones I purchased during that weekend)

But anyway...

The *real* point to this post is how to keep track of all of the wonderful ideas from the books I love to read.

I'm a fast reader in general and over the years, I've tried various methods.  I've used post-it notes to annotate my books.  I've tried writing in the margins.  I've tried blogging about various ideas.  If it's a way to keep track, I think I've probably tried it at some point.  But none of these methods have truly worked for me because I will get an idea from a book and get really excited about using it, then school starts and I quickly forget about the great idea.  Then summer comes again and the cycle repeats itself.

So how do I stop it?  How do I keep track of the ideas I gather from these books and actually put them into practice?

This year, I am trying something new.... a book journal.

I started the summer with this idea of keeping a small notebook next to me whenever I am reading.  and scribbling quick notes and references to myself.  However, as I've already read several books this summer, I quickly realized that this small notebook will not help me achieve the original goal, which is to keep track of ideas that I want to implement.  This realization led me to revamp and create an official book journal, so please feel free to critique and give suggestions!

Here's the idea:

First, a notes page modeled after the Cornell Note style will be where I jot all of my notes throughout the book:

You'll notice the typical "summary" section is missing from the above page.  That's because...

I decided that I wanted a Book Summary page to have as an "index" of sorts, where I pull out the big take-away ideas from the notes and put it in an easy-to-find reference page.

I've just started using these pages today, so I don't know how it will work or what tweaks I might end up with, but my current thought is to have a binder with tab divider pages for each book I've read.  Behind each divider page will be the Summary page, then all of the note pages for each book.  Hopefully this creates an easy to use reference to organize the ideas I've gathered and to ideally help with the actual implementation of said ideas!

What do you use to help you keep track of ideas?  What strategies do you use to take notes while reading?  And most importantly, how do you not forget those ideas that you want to implement?

Thanks for reading! :)

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Convergence Mastery Pondering

Don't you just love it when the first strategy of the first chapter of a book just stops you cold and you need to go ponder it, tweet about it, research it, blog it, or a combination of all of those? :)

As I've already said, I have WAY too many books in my to-be-read pile and today is an absolutely GORGEOUS day with a light breeze, sunlight, and temps around 80 degrees, so of course, I'm choosing to be outside enjoying the weather!  Today I decided to pick up a more math-y book, so I found this gem in my pile:

I'm pretty sure it was supposed to be an #EduRead book once upon a time as my Amazon account shows that I purchased it back in the Summer of 2014, but I've never read it :)  (Let's just say I'm *really* addicted to buying books!)

Even today, it took me a bit to get past the Introduction, etc and I was tempted to put it down, but I persevered and I'm glad I did!  This book promises to have 60+ strategies, but I'm stuck on Strategy #1 - Convergence Mastery.  As soon as I read the strategy, I sat down the book, started writing in my journal, researching via Google, and decided that I had to blog!

From my research, here's a definition based on a previous book by Mr. Thomas:

Basically, if there is a skill you wish all of your students to have, you build in these short mini-quizzes.  The teacher writes multiple short (2-4 question) quizzes, similar to what I would call a "Quick Check" in my classroom, with each quiz being the same skill / difficulty, but with different problems.  Students take the first quiz individually, then you grade it (or have them peer grade) as either a "100" or an "Incomplete".  Students review their errors and try again repeatedly until all students have earned "100".  The author has the students that earn a "100" become teacher assistants, helping the other students (which reminds me of Amy Gruen's Green Pen idea).

So after reading about this strategy, I immediately starting pondering its use in my classroom, especially with the logistics.  I love the idea, but it would need to be quick / fast and not use a ton of classtime overall.  The author had the students peer grade, but I'm rather gun-shy about that practice to be honest.  

One thing I loved immediately about this strategy is its potential for formative assessment use.  I really dislike giving a formal quiz that I haven't already informally assessed via a Quick Check or Exit Ticket and provided student feedback.  Granted, this means a lot of grading on my part but quarter sized sheets go SO much faster than a full blown assessment! :)  This strategy has the potential benefit of allowing me to assess basic skills in a very low-stakes kind of way.

What topics could this be used with?  Pretty much anything that is skill based.  Overall, I think the quizzes could be pretty easily made using a worksheet generator (like Kuta)

For my classes:
  • Forensic Science - Reading calipers
  • Pre-Calc - Unit circle values; Graphing w/ transformations; so many skills!
  • AP Stat - Reading computer output & interpreting for LSRL; Identification of sampling methods; Minimum sample size; Normal probabilities; Again - so many ideas!!!
  • Geometry - Compass / straightedge constructions; Circle theorems; Surface Area / Volume

How would you use this strategy?  What are potential pitfalls that I've missed?  How would you handle the logistics?

Friday, June 23, 2017

Summer Book Review: 101 Strategies

Anyone that knows me well knows that I often have my nose stuck in a book.  It is definitely one of my favorite past times and during the summer, I can frequently be found on the back patio with a book.  (Of course, that often leads to my mom teasing me about having a great tan on the front of my legs and the back of my legs being a bright white!)  Thanks to the #MTBoS and some great clearance sales at Half Price books last week, I have at least 25 edu-books in my to-be-read pile plus an uncountable number of fiction books waiting on my Kindle.

A few days ago, a tweet from Kathryn Freed caught my eye:

Kathryn's tweet started me thinking about some of the vocabulary books that I had in my "Summer Reads" pile.  This upcoming year, I will be teaching AP Statistics and Geometry, both which are heavy on the vocabulary.  In Geometry, I anticipate several ELL students as well, so I wanted to work on strategies to help all students be more successful academically.

One of the books in my pile happened to be "101 Strategies to Make Academic Vocabulary Stick", which I received as part of my ASCD membership:

Note:  If you love to read edu-literature, I highly recommend joining ASCD.  For $69 a year (or less if there happens to be a coupon), I am a "Select Online" member, which gives me access to the awesome Educational Leadership magazine plus 5 free e-books per year

Overall, this book had a very nice organizational structure.  Chapter 1 dealt with the various types of memory structures in our brains before diving into the actual strategies, which the author had split into 3 chapters.  Chapter 2 included strategies for introducing and encoding new vocabulary, then Chapter 3 worked with rehearsal strategies, and Chapter 4 dealt mainly with review and retrieval strategies.  Many of the strategies were interchangeable throughout the "make it stick" process.  Finally, Chapter 5 wrapped it up with how to assess vocabulary retention and how to plan for successful vocabulary instruction.

The book had some really good take-aways, which I'll get to in a minute, but my biggest disappointment was that "academic vocabulary" was rarely used to mean "content area vocabulary", rather it was more in line with what I would consider "SAT type words".  This is definitely a book I would recommend to my AVID colleagues as well as my ELA friends because I know that in our AVID classes, we really work hard on academic reading & writing and "owning" those words so that kids are comfortable using what the author calls "Tier 2" and "Tier 3" words while speaking and writing.  The strategies in this book would be extremely useful  for any teacher that wants to develop a vocabulary-rich classroom.

With that said, here are some of the strategies and ideas that I will definitely use:

Open with a Cloze - 
I've done this before, especially in AP Stat.  In this strategy, you create sentences that leave out a key word and try to have students complete each sentence.  I often use this during AP Review to remind them of all of the vocabulary we have learned throughout the year.  I typically provide a word bank to help students out.

This is a modification of the typical KWL chart, but with the extra "W" for Word at the beginning.  I've never been a fan of KWLs to be honest, mainly because of the "Want to know" heading, so I will probably modify this as a pre/post idea of WKL - Word, What we Know about the Word, What we Learned about the Word.  I think this could be a great strategy in Geometry because often we have words that kids have some familiarity with from previous courses.

Vocabnotation -
I'll admit, this is a strategy that makes me wish I was teaching AVID again!  Vocabnotation is basically Annotation for Vocabulary.  While reading a test (AVID Weekly, anyone?), have students circle the words they don't know, underline and draw a line from a word to a student created definition written in the margins, note (with a musical note) any important words, and draw arrows to words that connect in the text.

Dump & Clump - 
I'm pretty sure I've used this strategy at some point, although I don't recall using this name.  It may be related to one of the strategies from the AVID Critical Reading strand.  Give each small group a piece of chart paper, markers, and a topic.  Have the students brain dump words, ideas, etc onto the chart paper individually, then as a group, clump the words and ideas into subtopics.  Finally have the group write a summary sentence for each subtopic.  I think this could be a useful strategy when preparing for a test to activate their prior learning.

Out of Sorts - 
If you ever take a peek into my cabinets, there's no doubt that I'm a huge fan of card sorts.  However, the author talks about using card sorts with more of a word / definition / picture / example matching activity.  One thing I've never done though, is have the students glue or tape their card sort to their notebook, so I will probably try doing that in Geometry.  I think this could be easily adapted to a Desmos card sort as well.

Affix Organizer - 
This graphic organizer is somewhat similar to a Frayer model.  The author intended it as a way to think about prefix / suffix with words that have the same prefix / suffix and to compare those words. In my head, I started thinking about how I could use it more as a graphic organizer such as:

Enriching the Vocab Experience - 
This strategy was a fun little memory test.  Each student gets a blank piece of paper.  The teacher says the first vocabulary word and the students write down related words / ideas, but NOT the actual word.  This allows students to make deeper connections.  After 10 or so words, ask students to flip over their paper and see how many of the original words they can regenerate.  This reminded me of "Taboo" in reverse :)

Frayer Model for Self Reflection - 
This was probably one of my favorite take-away ideas from the entire book and it had nothing to do with the students!  When thinking of vocabulary instruction, most of us are familiar with the traditional Frayer model of Word, Definition, Characteristics, Examples, and Non-Examples.  In Chapter 5, the author challenged teachers to use this model as a structure for self-reflection.  As an example, the author had used the term "Vocabulary Instruction" in the middle spot where we typically would put the word.  Then for the four corners, she asked teachers to self reflect with "Current Habits - When do I teach this? How do I teach this? How often do I teach this?"; "Facts & Characteristics - What strategies do I use to teach this?"; "Examples - Best lessons"; and "Non-Examples - Worst lessons"

Overall impressions:
I'm glad I picked up this book.  It was a quick and easy read, but still provided a lot of food for thought.  I will definitely recommend it to my ELA / AVID colleagues and if I ever have the chance to teach AVID again, I know I will be re-visiting this book! :)