Saturday, October 27, 2018

#MyFavFriday - Fall has arrived!

It's hard to believe that we are two months into this year and already 1/4 of the way done.  Fall weather has finally arrived, which makes it difficult to get dressed, but I am ready for some tall boots and blanket scarves!  I love the Fall colors and the crisp days, but I really hate the lack of daylight... :(  I need my sunshine!

This week was our first week back from Fall Break, so it definitely was a "hamster on a wheel" week as we all adjusted to being back in school.  To top it off, we had a Collaboration Week, which means we had late start on Friday in order to work with our dpartments on pacing, finals, etc.  Overall a busy one, but definitely some good things happened!

My Favorite Lesson of the Week:
We have started Fingerprints in Forensic Science, which is our first foray into "individual evidence".  I love this unit because fingerprints fascinate me.  From the fact that no two fingerprints (so far) have been found to be identical to the different patterns to the mathematical investigations comparing our class to the national - it's super cool!  This year, we have a full-time campus police officer assigned to our school, so he even came to observe and help the students with how to roll prints and make a ten-card.  Next week we'll move on to minutae and dusting prints, which is where the real fun starts!  It can definitely get messy, but so much fun! :)

My Favorite Meal of the Week:
Look at that feast.... and oh my, that pie was to die for!

On Monday morning, I received an email from our football coach inviting me (and some other teachers) to join the team for the weekly team dinner on Thursday night.  In the email, it said that we had been selected by members of the team as a person that had a positive impact on them and on our school in general.  We sat with our host players and after the meal, they introduced us to the team. I have several of the senior football players in AP Stat, so after the meal, we all took a picture together.  I was so honored and so humbled to have been chosen by my kids as a special guest.  I've had the opportunity to represent our school and our district as Teacher of the Year, but those pale in comparison to being recognized and honored by your students, the kiddos that actually see you every day and truly know how much you love and care for them.  It was a bit tough to drive home that night because while it was raining outside, there might have been a few waterworks going on inside my car too... :)

My Favorite Whiteboard Moment of the Week:
Overall, it was a great week with a lot of activities and foldables and laughter and who can ask for anything more?

On Friday afternoon, my kiddos were reviewing for a test by doing stations around the room.  In that class, I have a group of girls that have some absolutely gorgeous writing and have started a business with hand-painted bibles and other gifts.  As they were working a problem near my desk, I overheard them in a discussion of handwriting and after they left, I found this on the board... 

Every Friday, I stand at the door and greet them with a "Happy Friday!!" and a high-five.  This has become one of my favorite traditions thanks to the #MTBoS and Glenn W.  :)

On that note.... Happy Friday and Happy Weekend to you all! :)

Thursday, October 18, 2018

My 1st Quarter Report Card

Back in early August, I blogged about my goals for this school year.  As the first quarter comes to a close, it's time to do a reflection on how those goals are progressing... :)

Goal #1 - Thinking
Based on the book 'Why Don't Students Like School', I started this year with the goal of having students do more thinking.  Overall, I'm pleased with how this goal is progressing, but I know that I still have work to do, especially as the fatigue of winter sets in.  This goal has mostly been focused in my Geometry classes as the AP curriculum already incorporates this goal through rich problems.  Here are some of the things I've used:

  • Puzzle Place - I started my puzzle table last year in January and while some students knew it was there, most didn't.  This year, I have kids that zoom right to it on Mondays and wrestle with the puzzle throughout the week.  One thing I would like to do is a "Puzzle Master" poster for students to get a star with their name on it when they've successfully solved the puzzle.  I had also thought of making a whole puzzle wall, but that went by the wayside pretty quickly :)
  • Rich Problems - One of the things I worked on this summer was developing a list of rich problems for my Geometry class.  I have used several at this point with some good success.  I introduce most of them with the puzzle mindset and my students have been fairly engaged. 
  • Find the Flub - This one hasn't happened - YET.  However, based on my readings on Formative Assessment, etc, I know this would be a powerful strategy to use, so I need to move it up the priority list.
  • Jo Boaler - I started the year in Geometry with Jo Boaler and some of the work from her Stanford Team.  I really think this set our year off to a good start with regard to thinking skills!

Goal #2 - Vocabulary
Since both Geometry and Stat are vocabulary-heavy courses, I knew this goal was a must-do.  I'm really pleased with how this goal is going so far...
  • Info Sheets - At the beginning of the unit (each quiz for Geo / each chapter for Stat), students receive an info sheet with the learning targets and vocabulary.  They do a vocabulary knowing rating at the beginning of the unit, then again at the end of the unit.  I love when students see their knowledge progressing as they rate themselves!  I don't think I use these info sheets to their best advantage, but I do like it better than what I've done in the past!
  • Vocab Quizzes - This is one addition that I *really* like!  On Tuesdays, our warmup activity is a 'Terms Tuesday', where I give 10 definitions / questions and students write their answer.  I've also used things like "What is the formula for....", which isn't so much vocabulary, but definitely essential information!  I do think I want to modify this a bit next year so that students track their data and compete with themselves.

Goal #3 - Number Sense
Of all my goals, this is the one I'm enjoying the most!  This goal is mostly targeted at my Geometry students, so I need to figure out how to make it more applicable to my Stat kiddos as well.
  • Number Talks - This one is a game changer!  If you haven't read about Number Talks yet, I highly encourage you to do so!  I started the year in Geometry doing these often, but I've slacked off a bit.  I need to get back to it!
  • Mental Math Challenge - One of the first tasks I had my students do was the "4 4s" problem.  Now, each week on Monday, they get 4 random digits and are trying to write expressions to equal the values 1 to 24.  The level of creativity I am seeing in their expressions is amazing!  I need to figure out a way to do some sort of "creative expression" award or sticker or something.
  • 1 to 9 puzzles - My students often get frustrated with these puzzles, but I love the number sense and thinking that happens when I give them a 1 to 9 puzzle and the number tiles.  
  • Estimate, then Calculate - This is an area I still struggle in.  I have not implemented this well and need to look for specific places I can use this strategy.

Goal #4 - Parent Communication
While still not my favorite thing, I am getting better at this one...
  • Email Class - This feature on our gradebook system is awesome, even though I haven't used it as much as I planned.  My original thought was to send a class newsletter to my parents, but yeah, that didn't happen.... Maybe next quarter :)
  • Calling Parents - I have called more parents this year than I probably have in the past 5 years combined!  It's been difficult as I rarely have a time without students in my room, but I'm trying to be proactive, both by calling to celebrate successes and to nip issues before they escalate.  One thing that I did this year that I really liked was that on the back of my student information sheet, I asked students the question of "If I need to call home, who should I ask to speak to?" - This question yeilded some great information about family situations and gave the students the heads up that I woud be calling home!
  • Organization - My goal is to hopefully reach out to every parent this year, so I added a section to my gradebook called "Parent Contact".  Mainly, I just printed a copy of my rosters and it gives me a place to document the date and type of contact, such as email, conference, phone, etc so I can keep track of who I've talked to.

Goal #5 - Feedback and Intervention
This goal is about to get its own blog post as this is part of my official evaluation goal... :)  
  • Homework Reflection - I am *very* pleased with how the Homework Reflection form is going in geometry and I plan to implement it in Stat too.  I have already used that data with parents and students when they have asked about their grades and how to improve.  I've been able to use the data to pull students aside and talk to them about their study habits and the trends I see.  I definitely have some modifications to make, but overall, this is a keeper!
  • Red Flag System - One of my summer reads was Robyn Jackson's "How to Support Struggling Students".  In the book, she talks about intervention and how to put together a "red flag" system.  This is something I want to work on in more detail and hope to have an online book study soon.
  • Processing Feedback - This is still an area of growth for me.  My kids this year have been GREAT about coming in for extra help and really using the feedback I've given them, but I'm not doing as great of a job of providing time to process the feedback and helping them learn how to use it.

Overall - Good things are happening in my classroom and my students are responding positively to my nagging :)  I still have a lot of room to grow but based on the first quarter, I'm excited to see where this year takes us.

Friday, October 12, 2018

#MyFavFriday - Fall Break

It's been a few weeks since I've done a #MyFavFriday and honestly, I almost didn't do one again this week.  But, as I'm sitting here fighting off sleep, I realized how much I really value these posts for my personal mindset and positivity.  I really do love what I do each day, but it's also so easy to feel overwhelmed by my inadequacy.  I love my students dearly, and it truly hurts my heart when I'm not able to reach a child, when there's not enough hours in the day to be what I need to be for everyone, when I recognize that a student needs more than I'm able to humanly give.  Recently, I've allowed myself to go to that place where instead of celebrating the successes, I focus on the failures and wallow there.  One of my friends posted a picture today that said "Just because you are struggling doesn't mean you're failing" and while I see an academic application with regard to productive struggle, that quote hit me personally as well.  Fall Break is coming this week and to be honest, I need it - time to recharge, to refocus, and to center myself again, so that I can celebrate the successes...

Speaking of, let's look at what happned this week!

My Favorite New Notebook:
Full disclosure - this is actually from last week, but hey, it's my blog post, so I can do whatever I want, right? :)

I have a lot to do on a daily basis with 3 preps plus all of the other things I try to juggle.  I often fail struggle with keeping everything straight.  It's not uncommon for a student to remark on how organized I am - HA! if they only knew... lol!  For years, I've put a "to-do list" in my lesson planner and it rarely gets used - I'm more of a post-it notes girl!  But at the end of last year, I started keeping my lists in a small notebook and then summer came and the notebook went away.  Last week, while at Dollar Tree, I found this adorable small notebook and I now have a to-do list book again! (Bonus: it has polka dots and a positive message - can it get any better than that???)  Plus, it's small enough to fit in my purse, but it has a hard cover so it's less prone to damage - that's a win win situation for me!

My Favorite Lesson of the Week:
This week in Geometry was the week every teacher dreads - the introduction to proofs!  We had spent time last week on inductive vs deductive reasoning, the laws of logic, and all of the conditional statements, now it was time to pull it all together.  Last year, I had found (via the MTBoS of course!), a great lesson plan on how to introduce proofs using word puzzles and I really liked it.  This year, I tweaked it a bit to include the structure of a 2-column proof with the puzzles and the kiddos took to it like it was nothing!  The next day, we did algebraic and basic geometric proofs and they rocked it!  This literally was the smoothest transition to statements and reasons that I've ever had and many students commented positively on how much they enjoyed the lesson.  That's a keeper, folks!

My Favorite Warmup of the Week:
If you don't follow @1to9puzzle on Twitter, I highly recommend it!  This is my go-to Friday warmup and I really, really LOVE using the movable 1-9 puzzle pieces to make it more of an low-floor problem.  I had tried using the puzzles last year but without the manipulative pieces and it did not go well.  With the pieces, though, is a game-changer!  I had actually created the numbers for use with Open Middle problems, but it just happens they fit perfectly in the enlarged @1to9puzzle too!  Kids just can't resist a good puzzle... :)

My Favorite Instructional Technology Moment of the Week:
Not every day is a great day in my classroom.  We finished up proofs on Wednesday, then I had one spare day before we paused for our midterm test.  I knew I didn't want to spend another day on proofs, so I decided to put together a Desmos AB to review parallel and perpendicular lines, which is the unit we'll start after Fall Break.  I worked on it for a while, had my student aide test it out, tweaked it a half dozen more times, and then it was time for the students.. and it flopped.  Big time.

BUT - thanks to the comments and the running around I did during 1st hour, I was able to edit it and make some much needed revisions for my 2nd hour and it went much better.  We don't use the Chromebooks a ton in my class, but I am super grateful for tools such as Desmos that allow for some great mathematical conversations!

My Favorite Acts of Student Kindness:
How better to start off a crazy Friday than with donuts???  This week was Homecoming week, so today included a pep assembly, shortened schedule, early dismissal, and a parade - oh, yeah, and a Football game tonight too! :)  But, before all of the craziness hit, one of my students came in for extra help and surprised me with breakfast! 

I really have some great kids this year and while they can sometimes be onery, I am so blessed to be their teacher and to play a small part in their lives.  Sometimes in the busyness of life, we (I) can lose sight of my "why" of what we do - and in one small act of kindness and appreciation, it made so many wrong moments right again.  Thank you, kiddo - I needed that :)

What were your favorite moments this week?  Share out in the comments or tweet with #MyFavFriday :)

Until next time... Have a blessed day!