Friday, September 21, 2018

#MyFavFriday - TGIF!

I'm so grateful that this week is over!  It's been a crazy and busy week where I never quite felt balanced.  Weird frustrations kept popping up, computers were acting funky, and I had to make a mad dash to my hometown for a family event mid-week.  All in all, I'm ready for a low-key weekend of grading, shopping, friends, and general relaxation!

But through it all, my kids were troopers - we had some really fun lessons, some great discoveries, and I was reminded yet again that I work with some great kids, staff, and admin.  :)

So now on to this week's favorite moments...

My Favorite Mindset Moment of the Week:
Sometimes I wonder if students listen to me at all, then I see a note like this one :)  I really do love the way I'm checking homework in Geometry this year and I really enjoy having a place to have a personal conversation with students each day.

This particular student has had struggles in past math classes, yet has one of the best examples of growth mindset I've ever seen in a student!  Just the day before, I had overheard this kiddo explaining how to use a protractor to a groupmate (and doing a fabulous job!), so I was a bit surprised when the student didn't do the nightly homework - until I read the note left for me.  Notice the "yet" and the note (which is cut off) says that the student chose not to fill in the answers when we went over the homework because they wanted to try it on their own first, then check our online LMS later.  Be still my heart... this kiddo GETS it! :)

My Favorite Lesson of the Week:
In Forensics this week, we were on to Trace Evidence.  Last Friday, our campus police chief came to talk to the students about his experience as a CSI (prior to coming to work for our district), which was a *perfect* lead-in to this week's lesson plans!  My co-teacher had already had her aide (one of our previous Forensics students) dirty up the socks, so after our lesson on how to collect and package evidence, we sent the kiddos outside to find their "crime scene".  Co-teacher had planted 15 socks around our building in various locations, so our students had to find one, photograph and sketch the scene, collect the evidence and turn it in to the "Evidence Locker" for safe-keeping and to preserve the chain of custody.  Then, the next day it was time to analyze the evidence.  We did macro and micro investigation, talked about oblique lighting, doing a tape pull, and various ways to watch for contamination.  Some of the groups had ants, hair, grass, sticklers, and other various outside things attached to their socks, which led to some REALLY interesting explorations, especially under the microscope! :)  One group even clipped off part of the really dirty heel area and under the microscope was able to see some pollen spores! 

My Favorite "Why I Teach" Moment of the Week:
Sometimes, things happen that just make your heart happy and it's so hard to keep the silly smile off your face!  One of my students had some struggles on last week's quiz.  On Tuesday morning, this student came to class early, so I was able to speak privately to them about wanting to work on the objectives and asked if they might be available to come in during our Homeroom time on Wednesday.  When this student came in, we briefly went over some of the struggles and we were able to pin down the root cause.  To make sure things were better, I gave the student a few independent practice problems and before I knew it, the student had used up every single whiteboard at the table, just filling them over and over and over again with math problems!  At the end of our time together, the student was confidently solving problems and had worked SO hard!  I love when a student is able to see their own progress and realize that they really are a math person! 

My Favorite Student Comment of the Week:
I'm not sure this one needs much explanation... :)
On Fridays, our exit ticket is a #5things Friday, as I try to get them to reflect on the week and just get to know them a bit better.  This student chose to share a few compliments for #5things.  When I read #4 to my aide later in the day, she agreed and asked how I'm able to always be in a good mood... it's easy!  I love what I do, I love the kids I work with, I truly enjoy the classes and students that I teach and honestly, it's a "fake it until you make it" thing.  I make the choice every day to "choose joy" :)

Have a blessed weekend, my friends and Happy Friday!

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!