Monthly Archives: July 2013

Color Coded Classes

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This post is a response to a comment to explain my system of using color to keep classes organized.

I have had my classes color coded for about 10 years.  I used to have 5 straight periods of Algebra 1 and I was forever getting them confused.  I know it sounds silly, but for some reason a color associated with the period number works for my brain to keep each class separate.

You can see that I don’t have a complete color set here at home, so orange sometimes becomes black or white, but at school, I have collected complete sets to use.  I always clip 1st class with a red, 2nd orange, 3rd yellow, 4th green, 5th blue.  With 6th classes, you could easily extend with purple.  When I grab a set of papers, I know immediately which class is in hand.

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On my desk, I have a file for each class that I can quickly add items to, whether they need to be filed, taken to office, they are placed in the class folder to-do later.

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If you can see the color dots on left sides of the black trays.  Students are asked either to place work on top shelf and I move to their class tray when the next class arrives OR they are asked to turn-in to their class tray.  If they have something late to turn in, they learn quickly it goes in the tray, not in my hand OR on my desk because it could get lost.

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In the hanging filetastics, I have a “While You Were Out” Folder. Anything I passed back or handed out when a student is absent, I place it in the corresponding folder.  They know this is the first place they are to look when returning to class the next day.  It keeps their items off my desk.

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This year, I will have clear wall file pockets, again, color-coded for my while you were out.

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I use index cards with student names to ‘randomly’ call on students.  Again, each class has their own color.  If I use white cards, names are written in the class color.  I have each group clipped, hanging in an easy access spot in the front of my room.  I like the cards, as opposed to popsicle sticks, personally, because I can jot notes down if needed for follow up with the students.

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I like using highlighters, color pens to mark papers/offer feedback as well.  Obviously yellow isn’t a great choice, but the others work well.

Hope this explains my system.  Any other ideas you can offer will be greatly appreciated.

Pam Wilson, NBCT
Currently Reading
5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematical Discussions, Smith & Stein
Teach Like  a Pirate, Dave Burgess
From Ashes to Honor, Loree Lough

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My Favorites Thursday Afternoon #TMC13

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The Hole Punch Game  – shared by colleague at Quality Core training, for reviewing or skills practice. 

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2 Minute Assessment Grid –  for student reflection at end of lesson or unit of study, all related posts are linked here.  Read about this in a post, I am sorry, I don’t remember who to credit, but found it again via Pinterest.

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Student Engagement Wheel from @dsladkey –  teacher reflection tool to score themselves on providing opportunities for student engagement. Reflections from a High School Math Teacher blog is where I first read about this tool.  The book offers very practical strategies for each slice of the wheel.

 

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How I implemented…

Choose 1 class
Score everyday for one week
Analyze your average
Create a plan of action for improvement
Discuss with colleague for accountability.
Implement
Reflect
Discuss with colleague for accountability.

Repeat with different class of students.

Initially, it takes only a couple of minutes to fill-in the wheel daily, but had great impact on my planning…

Also, allow your class to fill-in last couple of minutes in class…very interesting to hear their perspectives on each slice, they are very honest.

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On this particular day, students told me we had used graphing calculators, but not to enhance learning.  I appreciated that statement because it says just because we are doing “things” does not mean they impact student learning.

The other thing they pointed out – I use index cards to randomly call on students, almost always, but they laughed because I didn’t on this day which caused me to lose that piece of pie.

Pam Wilson, NBCT
Currently Reading
5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematical Discussions, Smith & Stein
Teach Like  a Pirate, Dave Burgess
From Ashes to Honor, Loree Lough

Planning for Post-It Note Assessments #made4math

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Let me just say I love Post-It notes.  @druinok questioned me last spring, “Just how many do you go through in a year?” The answer, I have no clue.  I use them once week or so on average, because like anything else, kids can get bored with them.

About 4 years ago, it was my curriculum specialist B.Wade and colleague J.Jessie who introduced me to Post-It note quizzes as a quick exit ticket tool to gauge where students thought they were. 

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@tbanks1906 blogs about it here as well.

So last year, I was introduced to this site called Pinterest, not sure if you’ve ever heard of it. 🙂  Anyway, I ran across this great reflection tool, 2-minute Assessment Grid,

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that I shared here and a follow-up Chalk Talk #makthinkvis activity here.

This issue I ran into this past spring, I didn’t have time to read/reflect on each class’ responses before the next class was filing in.  So, my #made4math for this week… I am laminating full size, color posterboards.  I already color-code my classes, 1st red, 2nd orange, 3rd yellow, 4th green, 5th blue.  I will leave one side of each board blank, but on the other, I will draw out my grid with icons before laminating. 

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Snipping some reinforced holes at the top so I can hang it on the wall using command hooks. (Thanks @solvingforx for this idea!) Students place their responses on, then I can remove their poster and replace with the next class’ for their responses.  During my planning, I can sit down and review each class separately.  Since, they are poster boards, it will be easy to store between 2 file cabinets or behind a shelf.

I can easily attach other color-coded stickies on the back side to create my Stop-light or any other formative assessment involving post-it notes, and this will allow me to keep each class section separate until I can sit down for some quality time to analyze and reflect.

Pam Wilson, NBCT
Currently Reading
5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematical Discussions, Smith & Stein
Teach Like  a Pirate, Dave Burgess
From Ashes to Honor, Loree Lough

A Dream Math Class, Teacher & Student

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Playing off this idea from @TJTerryJo, a reflection tool for PLCs, I plan to modify for my students/classroom.

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My initial thoughts to create a poster for each class, using different colors for each set of traits.  I can leave these up, as a visible reminder to each class of what we are trying to achieve.  Or should I store them away until we revisit/reflect?

Green – what characterisitics would an ideal math classroom have?

Blue – what does an ideal math teacher do to support you in achieving this goal or do to create this environment?

Purple – what characteristics would a student in this dream math class have?

At the end of a unit of student, take some time to reflect as a whole class and dotify the traits that were evident, maybe use yellow to dotify traits we need to improve?

I am unsure how to word my color-questions, so suggestions are welcomed!

Would it makemsense to start with student, then classroom, then teacher? Undecided on order as well.

Pam Wilson, NBCT
Currently Reading
5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematical Discussions, Smith & Stein
Teach Like  a Pirate, Dave Burgess
From Ashes to Honor, Loree Lough

My dream…a great reflection tool for PLCs…

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In a chat last month, I met @TJterryjo and wondered what the header picture of her twitter was all about.

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It looked like some good qualities with lots of dots, but how was this generated? So I asked…

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Basically her PLC was asked what characteristics a dream math student would have (in green).  Then, as teachers, what they could do to create that dream (in blue).  At each PLC, they “dotified” what they had seen in students and themselves to see if theybwere moving toward that dream.

I think this is an awesome, simple reflection tool.  Though more powerful as a group brainstorming and reflecting together, its a tool that anyone could use as they are workingntoward a set goal.

Thanks Terry for sharing!

Pam Wilson, NBCT
Currently Reading
5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematical Discussions, Smith & Stein
Teach Like  a Pirate, Dave Burgess
From Ashes to Honor, Loree Lough

My Brain Needs Sleep #geomchat #lit4math

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I love online chats, but my brain NEEDS 8 hours of rest or I just don’t function.  The problem?  Night time chats get my wheels turning and I cannot shut down. 

Some ideas I jotted down following Wednesday’s #geomchat to-do or at least think about:

1.  Use a variety of construction stations, then jigsaw students together with the same construction, allowing them to share experience, how-to of their method then discuss the pros/cons of each.

There was a bit of debate which is better tech or hands-on tools.  Design will often use the technology available, but I believe many of my students could benefit from the hand tools.  For example, my husband works with tiles a lot.  It amazes me the designs they often have to produce without the use of fancy tools and technology.  They must rely on the understanding of basic constructions and spatial reasoning to often cut pieces from square tiles which eventually are used to create masterpieces in building projects.

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2.  I prefer patty paper myself when  I am looking for a specific outcome, leading students but letting them discover the big ideas.   However, I am a huge fan of geogebra or other technology when it comes to exploration as well.

For example, last year in Mathematics Teacher there was an article about duals of polygons.  We began with paper pencil on grid paper, drawing polygons, creating the dual, looking for patterns, then asking our own questions.  Students then had to devise a plan for investigating duals to answer their questions.  It was a difficult task for some students because they had never been asked to think on their own, while others flourished.  Question examples How do areas / perimeters of the dual compare to original figure?  When will the triangles outside of the dual be congruent?  Are the side slopes of the dual related to side slopes of original polygon?  How many duals does it take to get a dual similar to the original? Technology allowed students to explore a larger variety of polygons in a shorter amount of time.

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3.  My last thought from the evening was triggered by a response to the question, What is the point / significance of constructions?

Jessica (@algebrainiac1) tweeted at 8:13 PM on Wed, Jul 10, 2013:
A1: Bc it can be done indep of calcs & nos.We need to teach that math is not about nos,but about objects adhering to certain rules #geomchat

This made me think of our #lit4math chat last summer…how we should think of mathematics as a language.  In geometry, our nouns are the objects – points, segments, lines, polygons, planes, circles, etc. and our verbs are what we do with those objects – name location, measure, how we transform/ move them.  It has me wondering about a different approach to teaching geometry.  For example, asking students what are the basic building blocks of shapes, when we combine them, here is what we get…but letting them answer the big question, how/what can we do with them? Then using their responses to intro our tools such as slope, distance, transformations to describe their attributes.  Maybe building that toolbox early on???

A question I shared with Jessica for our next #geomchat … transformations are recommended early on in geometry with CCSS, I am wondering how others are adjusting their curriculum to make this a focus?  Introducing them as a tool we use to manipulate our figures, is that the right idea?

Suggestions are encouraged and welcomed!

Pam Wilson, NBCT
Currently Reading
5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematical Discussions, Smith & Stein
Teach Like  a Pirate, Dave Burgess
From Ashes to Honor, Loree Lough

Addressing Questions about Formative Assessment Lessons

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Rather than go through a gazillion tweets, thought I would share my thoughts here.

The Formaltive Assessment Lessons I have shared I  the past come from the MARS site.  You will find tasks, lessons even sample assessments.

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If you are just visiting the site for the first time, I would encourage you to spend a bit of time in the Professional Development modules.

     “Module 1 intoduces the model of formative assessment used in the lessons, its theroetical background and practical      implemention.Modules 2 & 3 look at the two types of Classroom Challenges in detail. Modules 4 & 5 explore two crucial pedagogical features of the lessons: asking probing questions and collaborative learning.” MARS site description.

The assessment tasks are shorter, but still allow for some amazing mathematical discussions, especially when implemented using the format of #5pracs model.  Tasks are organized by levels with the expert involving a wider range of Mathematical Practices, less structured and requires more problem solving /centent knowledge.  Where as the novice seem to be more straight forward, provide a bit more structure.  Which task to choose? Well, it depends on your students and your purpose of assessment for a particular standard.

The classroom challenges (FALs) are much more lengthy.  Usually 2, even 3 day total for complete implementation of the lesson.  I am okay with ‘sacrificing’ this time when students are engaged, having mathematical conversations.  The productive struggle they may experience causes the ideas to stick with them.  For example, this year, some of my Algebra 2 students referred back to a lesson from their 9th grade year about “Tom” which was a lesson on time-distance graphs…one of the first FALs I ever attempted.  How many other lessons have I taught over the years that truly stuck with them?  Monster Trucks @mathprojects, definitely, but my lecture, notes, worksheet practice…never.

FALs are either problem-solving based, usually students attempt a problem individually, then in a pair or small group, then they analyze student samples of the same task.  The concept development often uses cards sort activities.  Using these have impacted how I present other lessons as well.  I see the value in student discussions and sharing, allowing them to create their own ideas rather than me telling them every single step.

Like any other resource, FALs can be modified to fit your learners. However, I have seen greater impact on learning when I follow the layout of the lesson closely.  Teachers have tested these lessons, anticipated student strategies/misconceptions and even outlined possible questions you may ask to move a learner forward.

Each FAL is outlined to show intended learning goal, along with mathematical practices that will be evident in the lesson. There is prep time involved. Don’t think you can download the night before, make copies  before class the nest day and begin. 

Ideally, the FALs would be placed about 2/3 through the corresponding unit of study.  I have found them to be very eye-opening to my students’ thinking.  Some FALs require some pre-requisite skills, so you must go through the lesson in order to see what the students will be doing.

Also, if you are an Algebra 1 teacher, dip back into 7th & 8th grade for some great lessons, especially if you are in the transitioning phase of CCSS.  I especially like Increasing Decreasing Quantities by a Percent, Interpreting Distance Time Graphs, Modeling Situations w Linear, Representing and Combining Transformations Equations from middle school lists.

If you have specific questions, please share in comments.  I am no expert, but I have implemented enough of the lessons in the past 3 years to know they have a place in my classroom.

Pam Wilson, NBCT
Currently Reading
5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematical Discussions, Smith & Stein
Teach Like  a Pirate, Dave Burgess
From Ashes to Honor, Loree Lough