Friday, June 1, 2018

End of the Year

Things will be changing at my school next year.  Don't worry, I'm still happily planning on being in my same position, but I will be losing several coworkers as well as my principal.  I am very sad to lose so many wonderful, compassionate people.  I have enjoyed working with them and some of them are my dearest friends.  But apparently this stage has come to an end, and there are things to look forward to in a new year, so here are some of them!

1.  Our bell schedule...I think every year our bell schedule changes a bit.  Hopefully this one is a keeper :)

2.  My organization plans...I've been filing lots of Algebra papers into a file cabinet for years.  It's overflowing now, so I've decided to try unit binders with MINIMAL paper copies and keeping everything I can in google drive.  I've got drive set up ready to go, so I will work next year to transition.

3.  My attitude...I think doing the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek with Angela Watson has really allowed me to put things into perspective and focus on school at school and home at home.  I want to keep strengthening that because it's the peace I get from stepping away that allows me to deal with challenging behaviors in a more peaceful way.

4.  Our new principal admitted to not checking email at home.  What a great example of self care!

Something Positive:  I got a very wonderful compliment from a coworker today, and I'm feeling that that is a powerful way to end the year.  It is nice to know that someone thinks I've got potential and am doing a good job.  I will tuck that away for the future when I need it - too bad it wasn't written down!

Something Funny:  As I was cleaning out my room I came across a box that I didn't want to throw out last time I cleaned out the closet.  Upon opening it I found these certificates for a math competition

I was thinking about how funny it is that this is OLD (you can see this says 2006, others were from 2002) and then I realized that *I* was in high school then...but slowly my brain put together the more ironic fact that my husband was in high school then and he attended the school we both now teach at!  As far as he can remember he participated in this math competition in 2006, meaning that this is a result of his efforts (along with others' as well).  This was by far by #myfavoriteclassroomtrash


Monday, August 7, 2017

First Day Plans

First Day of School Plans with #SundayFunday

MTBoS SunFun Logo
Numbers About Me:

For the past several years I have enjoyed doing a "Numbers about Me" activity with my students on the first day that then turns into the cover of their notebook.  I have refined it over time, but last year I made it into a card sort and I think I'll keep it like that this year.  I really enjoy starting the year with a card sort because it is something that I do often in class.

I start with 10 numbers and units that describe me, but I separate the numbers from the units.  They work as a table to try to match them up.  I want around table to table and check their work and tell them how many matches they have correct.  I DO NOT tell them which ones are correct.  This is the golden part of the activity.  I can draw it out as long as I want, or end it as quickly as I need.  I give them time to struggle and then reveal the answers.  My son was in my class last year and his group did not match up all of the numbers.

I then present the answers and give a mint to the students in the group with the most correct answers.  I then turn it to them to create 5 numbers and units that describe them.  They write it on a notecard and turn it in by the end of the day.  They must use a variety of numbers:  percentages, decimals, fractions, negatives, positives, integers, etc.  

Our first unit in Algebra is on numbers and units so this ties in really well.  The second day I usually ask them all to have their notebook and they decorate a cover page with their five numbers about them.  It's crazy, but it works!

I often do the card sort part with all my classes, but usually only Algebra does the follow-up part.  By the time my students are in Statistics or Discrete, I've usually taught them before, so fewer time spent on introductions is necessary.

Two Truths and a Lie:

Another thing I did last year that I really enjoyed was for my Discrete Math class after reading the syllabus we did a class version of two truths and a lie based off of the syllabus.  I had each student submit a notecard with two truths and a lie written down.  We went over each as a class and they used mini-whiteboards to give their answers.  I kept score on the board.  It fit well, because our first learning target for Discrete is about propositions, and that's what they had written for me already!

Syllabus Scavenger Hunt:

Another activity I've considered doing is chopping up the syllabus and posting it all over the room.  Have groups read a part and then answer one question about that section before they can move on to the next section.  I feel this would engage them better in the "reading the syllabus" process.  I plan to do this in Algebra and Statistics this year, but not on the first day (maybe the second).  

I have even considered breaking it up by the name of the course (7 sections for Algebra, 10 for Statistics) and they earn each letter by accurately answering the question.  Then they have to work to collect all the letters.  

A teacher move that seems obvious to me now, but I wouldn't have been aware of it my first several moves is that when the group comes to me for a question, I would ask it, give them time to discuss, and then use a random generator to select one of them to answer it for me.  If that student can't, then they'll have to try again with a different question!  (Meaning that I would need to have multiple questions for each section...)

Talking Points:

Another thing I introduce at the beginning of the year is Talking Points.  I use talking points throughout the year about weekly for bellwork.  I have some general ones and some unit-specific ones that I use throughout the year with my Algebra students.  However, one day at the beginning of the year (first week), I introduce talking points by having the students teach themselves.  This is all from Elizabeth (aka Cheesemonkeysf).  All of it.  Anything Talking Points is all her.

Quick Coherence:

One thing I want to try this year is this:  Quick Coherence

I tried it at a parenting seminar this summer and watched it help calm down a room of preteen boys, so seems like it's worth a try.  And in terms of creating a culture equitable to students who have experienced trauma, I think this is worthwhile.  Exactly how and when and how much is up for debate still, but likely to do a session at the beginning of each class on the first day!

I'm sure I'll be doing other things at the beginning of the year, but those are the biggies that allow me to flow through the first day of school and a little beyond.


 If you want to read more #SundayFunday posts about First Day Plans, then check out I Speak Math after Sunday, Aug. 13!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Goals for Fall 2017

Goals with #SundayFunday

MTBoS SunFun Logo

I am expecting to have four different preps this year.  I am used to having three, so this is causing me some anxiety.  However, I'm trying to stay calm and not allow my job to consume my life.  I'm having some problems balancing my passion for work with my personal life.  My children require a lot of work and attention and so I need my work to not invade that.

I'm hopeful that with #SundayFunday I can do all this and blog some more than I did the past year!  I'm excited to set some goals for this year.  But maybe I should just set goals for first semester because that seems more reasonable.  I also think three goals would be a good starting point.

1.  One performance assessment per unit in Algebra.  I want to assess students in multiple ways, and this is something that I've been working on over the past several years, and I'm close to meeting this goal, so it seems reasonable.  However it is also important to keep it as a goal so that things are in perspective.

2.  Topical use of my prep.  I discussed this on twitter with Shelli @druinok and Casey @cmmteach and there was a blog post by Krisanna at The Teal Paperclip.  I then sat down and looked at my schedule and designed a slide for my school planner.  You can find that slide in this document which contains all the printables I will use.

One of the reasons I want to have this as a one semester goal is that I could love it or hate it.  So if I try it for a semester, I should know!

3.  My new prep is Statistics.  So I want to make sure that it doesn't take over everything, but also that we do engaging activities.  So I guess my goal there is that I modify/create something once every section (3-5 chapters).  This could be ANYTHING - notes, activity, card sort, practice problems, journal, etc.  The other part of this goal is to then blog about it.  This will help me #pushsend and demonstrate my imperfections as a teacher.  I am not a superhero teacher, and I don't believe that teachers need to be superheros!

Thanks for Reading!
 - Kathryn

If you want to read more #sundayfunday posts about Goals, see Julie's collection at I Speak Math.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Teachers Are Stressed; They Should Fix Themselves

Someone shared this article on twitter, and I was excited that NPR thought the flawed educational system needed addressed:  Teachers Are Stressed, And That Should Stress Us All

Then I read the article.  It doesn't recommend systemic changes that are necessary to ensure teacher well being in the United States.  It just suggests that teachers change themselves by learning to be more mindful.  What a load of crock!  So I alternatively title it "Teachers Are Stressed; The Should Fix Themselves"

I'm not opposed to mindfulness.  I think it is a great tool for both students and staff at schools across the country.  I'm angered that it appears as though this massive educational problem can simply be solved by the teachers themselves.  Simply buy the book, read it, and implement.  Life will be better after that!

Would you like to know what would decrease my stress?  Here are some suggestions:

  • More days off/Year round school - I know not everyone likes this idea, but I think spreading the stress of the school year out throughout the entire year would be helpful.  Also I could take my kids to appointments without having to take time off, and then feeling guilty for taking time off.  We need regular breaks during the year; more than just weekends.
  • More prep time/collaboration time - I need time to grade papers, talk with other teachers about strategies, and develop lessons for my classes.  Those things are not automatically done, they take time.  And 49 minutes a day is not enough.
You know, that might really be all it takes.  Teachers need time.  We do a lot.  Give us time.  Give us a break.  Let us breath without 20 kids staring at us to see if we're watching while they try to get away with something.

Next time you write about teachers being stressed, acknowledge that we are not in a position to fix the system that needs changed.  That is bigger than us and so something other than us is going to have to fix our stress.


Saturday, July 30, 2016

Unit Conversions Piece

Before #TMC16, I had asked for some help with lesson ideas for unit conversions.  Anna Vance (@typeamathland), replied with this introduction that she has used

I was thinking this is pretty awesome!  How can I make it better?  How can I use it to create a cohesive lesson on unit conversions.  I got another good idea from Gregory Taylor (@mathtans) that I would like to incorporate as well:

At TMC, I got to talking a little more with Anna, and we had BOTH been trying to find a way to make the conversions a little more manipulative for students.  I was still thinking numbers, but Anna thought shapes!  And the beauty of shapes is that I can choose ones with symmetry, so that each fraction could be turned either way!!!  This to me was the awesome part.

So with a lot of trial and a little error, I created some cards that can be used to intro how dimensional analysis needs to be set up to cancel one thing and leave another.  Here are the "conversion factors"

There are 6 of them, but they could all be flipped the other way, making 12 possible options for students to choose from.  I also made cards to be the start and end of the conversion.  Nothing too exciting to see here:
Then I played around to make sure I had enough of everything, but not too much.  And I think I do.  I like that sometimes there is only one solution, and sometimes there are three.  At this point my plan for this activity would be to show the start and end I would like on my document camera and have students work in pairs.  Then if they find a solution I will prompt, "Can you find another?"  Sometimes they will be able to and sometimes not.  Hopefully some students will be able to justify why they can or cannot find another solution.  

I played around a lot with it and I don't want to put all the pictures here, because I tried to find all the solutions, but here are a few:

Start with a square and end with a hexadecagon has at least two solutions, but start with a octagon and end with a rhombus only has one.

Obviously this is not an entire lesson, so I still have some more planning to do, but I like what I've got so far and I think it will give my students some good playing and thinking about math opportunities.  I am trying to collaborate with the science teacher on this standard, so I've got a lot to do before I can be all the done thinking about it.

I have some other notes on what the rest of the lesson might be like, but really this next part is for me, so skip to the comments and throw questions or concerns up there.  I'll post links to the docs at the bottom too!

Notes for Me:
  • Me:  Shape manipulatives
  • Science:  Number manipulatives
  • Think Input/Output (where input/output have the same value/amount/quantity)
  • Me:  discuss conversion factors need to have a value of 1
  • What can we multiply by without changing the value of the input?
  • Science:  look up conversion rates
  • Me:  notes
  • Science:  guided practice
  • Mistakes?  Video?  Student created mistakes?
  • Should we make an assignment menu?  Due for both classes?  Revision encouraged throughout?
  • I want students to journal after doing the shape manipulating! Need a good prompt.
  • Introduce new shape.  Create one conversion factor that will allow you to convert this shape to any other shape in your set.  How do you know this works?  Maybe it doesn't, but you're close.  How do you know it doesn't work?
Here are the documents:

Let me know what you think!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Checklist turned Tracking Sheet

At TMC16, I went to lunch with a group to discuss SBG and Interactive Notebooks.  We ended up mostly talking about SBG, which was great because I got a new idea!  Jessica Breur (@BreurBreur) shared how teachers at her school use tracking sheets for the students to reflect on how they are doing with each target and record scores the teacher has given them.  Then at the end of the unit the teacher collects and keeps them.  I asked her to share with me, and she kindly did!

While looking at all her resources and thinking through it all I was thinking about how it would make a lot of sense to combine this with my checklist, since most of the assignments are recorded there anyway.  Also students rarely keep their checklists after the unit is over, so it doesn't seem detrimental for me to keep them.  I would just need to add quizzes and tasks to the checklist when we do them, which wouldn't be too tricky and would be incentive for students to make those up right away when they miss them (bonus!).  So instead of using any of her wonderful resources, I worked on creating my own.

I needed to break up the spots for assignments based on learning target and provide a space for students to graph their scores for each assignment, so I have a sample that looks like this:

It has room for four assignments per learning target (3 learning targets on the front, zero or one or two on the back depending on unit), and a big miscellaneous section at the bottom of the back.  I figured I would use the miscellaneous section for assignments that related to multiple (or no) learning targets and overflow if I need more than four assignments for a given learning target.  Here is a picture of the back side:

I did an example of what I would write if there were five assignments for the first learning target.

Thoughts I still have:

  • Will the stamp space be big enough for my stamps?  (I'm going to test it out tomorrow)
  • I am concerned that I will end up needed more than four assignments often, making it pointless to separate it by learning target, but I need to fit three learning targets on the front when I have five learning targets in a unit.  I am especially concerned if I am adding quizzes, group tasks & reflections, and open middle type problems to this.
  • I used to require students to have 80% of their checklist complete in order to take the test.  I could do it that same way, or I could say you can at most one missing from each section.  I want this to be a reflective tool, not just a punitive tool, but I also feel a need to hold them accountable.
What potential concerns do you see?  What things would you change?  Any ideas on my thoughts above?


PS - I am on a blogging roll since TMC16, and I have a lot more ideas to come!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Writing in Math

At TMC I really felt pushed to have my students doing more reflection, which I had already been thinking about.  I want them to have "math journals" where they can reflect on what we're doing in class, their homework, and "I see math" entries.  I didn't go to Anna Blinstein's "Journaling and Writing in Mathematics" session, but maybe I should have.  There were a lot of sessions I wanted to go to, but didn't, so I've committed myself to look over their resources on the wiki.  I wanted to take some notes while looking over Anna's slides, so here they are.  Also here is a link to Anna's presentation.  It's way better than what I have here.

Initial Thoughts
  • What do you value in your class?
Learning. I tell my students "we are here to learn" often. I also value my students. As people. I care about them and their personal growth.
  • How will doing more writing help you achieve this?
I want to have my students keep a math journal so that they can reflect on lessons and share where "I see math"
  • What concerns do you have about doing more writing with students?
I can't figure out if I want them to do it on paper or electronically and I can't figure out if/when I should read it. How I would find time for all of it and how it would be marked.

Reasons to Write in Math Class:
  • metacognition/retention
  • communication
  • fun
  • better assessment
Possible Prompts:
  • Describe the mistake.
  • Summarize today’s lesson in a few sentences.
  • Which of these is correct? Explain how you can tell.
  • What would be a good question someone could ask about this topic?
  • What’s something that’s confusing to you right now?
  • Pick one problem and explain what you did and why.
  • Which homework problem was the hardest for you? Why?
  • Would you use strategy A or B here? Why?
  • What is going well in class for you? What is not working as well?
  • How do you learn best? What can I do as a teacher to help you learn?
  • What are your goals for this semester? How will you reach them?
  • What’s one good thing that happened this week?
  • What is something mathematical about which you want to learn more?
  • Did your performance on the quiz surprise you - why or why not?
Note to Self: Differentiate (to self) whether you want journal for the day to be metacognitive/reflective or an opportunity to assess student learning. Prepare prompts in both categories and place in notebook to use. Have one selected for the lesson, but be willing to change it up.

Ways to get buy-in:
  • share student work (with class, parents, admin, on classroom, twitter, blog, wall)
  • respond to their writing
  • Share purpose
  • Give them interesting problems to write about
  • use during assessments?
  • Give feedback:
    • short is OK
    • coach on how to improve
    • acknowledge progress
    • ask students to reflect on their journaling
    • short and frequent is most important!
Note to Self: If I decide to ask for formal write-ups, there is a structure outlined on the wiki

Assessing Journals:
  • Two sentences: acknowledge something good, suggest improvement
    • more detail
    • clearer explanation
    • connect math/writing
    • better justification
    • more precision
    • more math vocab
    • include examples
    • extension
    • look for connections to other content
  • Scoring:
    • Foundational: student reflection responds to some part of the prompt and generates some insight about self and/or math (this is a 2)
    • Proficient: student reflection engages with the prompt; uses reflection to plan and reach goals (this is a 3)
    • Exemplary: student reflection yields insights, connections, and specific areas of need; student reflects deeply as part of process beyond specific prompt (this is a 4)
  • More scoring rubrics on wiki
Note to self: I could have students "redo" if they don't show foundational. Also, do I really want to score them? How would I connect to standards? SMP?

Thoughts Now:

  • What would you change about your responses?
Still have same concerns
  • Do you have any new ideas or concerns?
Lots of ideas on assessment, buy-in, questions to ask, and ways to give feedback
  • What do you need to do in order to be able to include more writing in your classes?
I need to decide if/how to score, how to have them keep their journal (notebook or electronic), when to check, and some prompts to give. I also need to set up notes to myself about the structure in my notebook.

Where do I go from here?
  • Ask Anna, Carmel, kristen about journaling on paper vs electronically
  • Select some common prompts and organize into my notebook
  • Determine goal frequency of journalling in class (twice a week?)
  • Talk with Nicole about scoring or not (when we go back to school)
  • When lesson planning: select prompt for lesson, timing, and method for increasing student buy-in
If I follow-through with this, you should be hearing more about journaling on this blog. Ideas, suggestions, comments, please leave them below or tweet me (@kathrynfreed). I'd love to continue this conversation, because I still have a long way to go with it.