Monthly Archives: May 2014

#teamwork Once a Laker, Always a Laker #MTBoS Post 17

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Not math related…

Our school will be in full renovation mode beginning Monday.  We are out until Phase 1 is complete.

Yesterday, several classified employees from our district came to help us empty our classrooms, etc.

No plan in place…but a goal, to get everything moved.  These folks have a true work ethic…they see something that needs to be done…they don’t stand around waiting on someone to tell them what to do, they just do it.  True workers.  Leaders by example.

A goal without a plan only works when you have folks who take initiative.  Otherwise, the goal is never reached.

I am very grateful for their help. A lot got accomplished in a short time because of these folks.

My husband’s aunt said it best #teamwork Once a Laker, always a Laker.

Thank you to those who so graciously jumped in to help yesterday.

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Everyday…Success is No Accident #MTBoS30 Post 16

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I really Iiked this. A.lot.

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I decided last week to offer an Experience as a Learner survey to my students modeled after the one found here in @grantwiggins post  Fixing High School by Listening to Students.

I will reflect when I have all of my classes to complete the survey.  But for now, 100% of my students responded they strongly agree “My teacher…really loves her subject.”

There are topics I don’t enjoy but if I go into the classroom with a ho-hum attitude, why would I expect my students to have a different attitude? 

I get to set the tone, everyday.  I get to grab their attention, everyday.  I get to choose to interact with each student, everyday.  I get to let them know they matter, everyday. 

Of course I love what I am doing!  It is hard work.  I must persevere. I study and learn myself…I must model the characteristics I hope to see in them…so they can find success.

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids #MTBoS30 Post 15

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Many years ago, when I first began teaching, students compiled portfolios in their mathematics classes.  In the beginning it was a waste of time.  But as they adjusted them, I felt they could be useful learning tools.  About the time they got them just right, (students were making claims and supporting with reasoning /evidence, not just a bulleted list of steps to solve an equation)…well, they did away with them.

A colleague shared a task during my last year of portfolios.  I ran across it a couple of years ago in a file some where.  Once again, I forgot about it until I found this DVD:

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The task was simply for students to devise a plan to confirm or dispute Disney’s claim that the kids were shrunk to 1/4 inch tall.  Most would collect some measurements from the movie screen and support their conclusions with proportional reasoning.

Kind of interesting to determine if they held the same ratios throughout all of the scenes or if some seemed more to scale than others.

What other movies could be offered in a similar task?

Summer Reading 2014 #MTBoS30 Post 14

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I actually began reading this book, but the last weeks of school kicked in and I had to put it down…
Strength in Numbers: Collaborative Learning in Secondary Mathematics, Ilana Horn

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I saw so many things about this tweeted out of NCTMNOLA…
Principles to Actions: Ensuring Mathematics Success for All, NCTM

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As I refine unit organizers this summer, I hope to focus on making Essential Questions a vital part ot the units.

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I am determi ed to make an impact on student reading through a focus on vocabulary/literacy strategies.  I participated in a webinar the other afternoon…some great strategies shared, looking forward to learning more…
Vocabulary Their Way: Word Study for Middle and Secondary Students, Shane Templeton

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As I begin preparing for AP Statistics…
Lady Tasting Tea, David Salsburg

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A colleague shared a copy of this book with me earlier in the year…
Invent to Learn:  Making, Tinkering, Engineering in the Classroom,
Martinez & Stager

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Being a confident teacher leader is a goal in this last half of my career…learning to listen and consider others’ strengths is important…
How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie

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And for kick back, relax…The Fault in Our Stars was recommended by some of my students.
Thanks to @druinok, I have a shelf full of kindle books ready to go, too!

What other titles are you considering this summer?

You Asked for It, You’ve Got It #MTBoS30 Post 13

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I remember a conversation 3 years ago with a 9th grade class of students.  One asked me why we didn’t offer AP courses at our school.  My reply, “Because some people think students don’t like to be challenged.”  I was serious.  A conversation in the previous spring, a person asked me, “Why would a student want to take a hard AP course over a guaranteed dual credit class?”  Because maybe they like to learn and want to be challenged?

Anyway, that day in class, I told the students if they wanted AP courses offered, they needed to ask for them.  Their parents got involved and next year we are adding AP Literature, AP Environmental Science, AP Statistics just in time for their senior year.  What’s even better…there are 109 requests between the 3 courses.

When I spoke with a student the other day with concerns about their attendance and how it would have impact on their success i  AP…they replied, “Yes, I understand.  My mom has the same concerns.  But its a class I want to take. It will challenge me.  I will be here.  I’m looking forward to it.”

Another student was asked why they were taking 2 AP classes and an online Physics course (we don’t offer Physics…sad.)  Their reply, because I can and I want to.

There are many others who put them in their alternate requests.  I am proud so many have stepped up to be challenged.  I am so proud, they have more options their senior year.  I am proud they took the initiative and asked for what they wanted.

I listen, I Learn #MTBoS30 Post 12

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A student had a question about a system of equations problem in their review packet this past week.  It seemed like a straight forward problem, but they were struggling with it. Another realization I must be very intentional to spiral early topics throughout the year.

Another student quickly blurted out the answer, so I asked them to explain their approach.  Here is a look at their thinking…

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Again, I don’t think this way.  My brain has been trained to use the traditional multiplication/linear combination.  The student’s idea is exactly the same, yet it makes so much more sense, not so procedural, but making sense of the numbers.  I even used this approach with a couple of students who were needing some help…they quickly picked it up and was able to adjust their thinking and apply to other problems.

Yes, when I give them an opportunity to share…I listen and learn.

My Feel Better Folder #MTBoS30 Post 11

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I started a feel better folder about 8 years ago.  When I receive a kind note from a parent, an encouraging email from a colleague, a drawing or thank you from a student,  quality feedback from an observation…it goes in the folder.

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So on a down day or when I need a reminder of why I do what I do…I can spend a few minutes in reflection while flipping through my treasures.

Just a few snippets of what you might find…

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One of the best things I’ve ever done.  So teachers, new or experienced…if you don’t have one, you should start one.

Looking for a New Principal #MTBoS30 Post 10

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When our current administrator took his position 2 years ago, he was clear it was a transitional 2 years only.

So, here we are again…looking for a new administrator.

Here is the posting, beautiful Lake Cumberland, Kentucky…Mighty Lakers…oh, yea…our Middle School is also seeking a new principal as well.  

I am looking forward to a new principal who is progressive, driven, passionate about education and learning…who is willing to dig in and do the hard work, motivate and lead us forward!

HW Part 2 #MTBoS30 Post 9

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It was a conversation I read on Twitter last night linking this article that got me to thinking…

Where is the balance?  I have students at both ends of the spectrum…those who are college-bound & those who are not; those who have highly involved parents & those who are practically raising themselves; those who are intrinsically motivated & those who are a warm body in my classroom by court order;  those who do not work & those who go to work directly afterschool…not because they want to but because they are helping their family’s income; those who are college/career ready and those in the 15th percentile…all in the same class.

Pretty straight forward indicators of who will and who will not completed lengthy assignments.  Those who are progressing continue to progress, so its up to me to get the content infused during the class period…otherwise, its amiss.

HW/Practice is a small percentage of the overall grades reported.  However, I still see that it makes a huge impact on so many of my struggling students.  I am perfectly fine for students who don’t need it to not do it and master any quiz/test on the concepts.  But if they are able every single time, then do I need to up the level of my assessments?

Students who are not “grade getters” are satisfied with good enough.  This is my struggle.  If I set my mark at 80% and they get 60% or even lower…I require a wrong answer analysis, which gets completed IF I allow time in class, but beyond my 50 minutes…usually not.  They must show proof of practice, some action-tutoring, meeting with me, completing/redoing a previous assignment.  But if they are content with their score…there is little effort to make improvements.

After some in class intervention, I pull them out of elective classes for RTI (because after school tutoring interferes with their work schedule).  Its usually about 50/50…appreciating extra help vs. Mad at you for making them miss their electives.

When I assign HW, I attempt to make it purposeful.  Some may have more skills practice, while others are geared toward contextual problems.  If its skills practice, I choose so many and they choose so many-with suggestions based on their performance on a quick quiz in class. (Ex. If you need more practice like #3…choose from problems 11-15) Self-reflection and student choice. 

Other times, it may be to write a summary or reflection of the discovery activity / small group task of the day.

I attempted to flip using some video lessons provided by out textbook nut that was a flop.  I like the idea, but to me what I was seeing was no more than direct instruction….here copy what I do…Which is appropriate at times, just not all of the time.

There are students who simply copy someone else’s work.  Duh. Seriously.  But I see educators do it to when it comes time to submit a PGP or other documents for program reviews…and those are usually the ones who complain about students not trying/thinking on their own.  Yep. Cheating, how could teenagers do such a thing. 

I attended a session at NCTM Louisville last fall by Samuel Otten @ottensam on twitter.  The focus was on SMP but I had so e great take a ways as pertaining to HW.  Rather than the standard dry check most of us grew up doing…try some reflection.  These will easily fit in the LHP of your INBs:
Which problems were most alike? Different? Why/Explain.
Which problem was easiest? Most difficult? Why?
Give them the answer(s) and let them create the problems.

For me, its key to walk around skimming their responses, carefully select a few to share and sequence them appropriately.  I definitely am a fan of pair-share then share with whole class something you heard (not what you actually wrote) or saw from your partner.

I have even tried a question board…as students enter the room, they list problem #s that gave them some struggle.  Use this to guide our HW discussion.

As HW…assign problem to a student…they must create 2 possible student responses…one with correct reasoning, one not. Post them on chart paper for a carousel activity and students walk around Chalk Talk responding with stars (things they agree with) or  delta (questions they might ask to help student change/improve their response).  Each student gets 3 stars and 3 deltas which means they would visit 6 different responses from other students.

Another favorite assignment which actually serves as a review…
At end of lesson, they create a 3 question quiz to share the following day.  With complete solutions /explanations on back.  This can be modified to use high DOK questioning with a bit of guidance.
Or at the end of a unit, allowing students to compose their own assessment addressing each of the learning targets allows them to revisit various lessons/tasks.

Again, only some ideas of things I have found useful in my classroom…hopefully at least 1 take a way you can tweak for your students.

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Give them a box…take it home, redesign/construct a more efficient box.