Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Morning Session from #TMC14: #gwwg14

So I actually had to close twitter in order for me to start this post.  I've been wanting to write about all the amazing things that happened at #TMC14, but my brain is on overflow!  I'm pretty sure that a concise organized summary of EVERYTHING is not going to happen, but I did want to share how amazing our morning session with @cheesemonkeysf was, because it was awesome!

However, now that I've been home a few days, I can already feel myself giving up hope on implementing some of the things I learned about.  It's crazy how when I was a part of the community at #TMC14 it all seemed so easy and now that I am home it all seems so much more difficult.  So as @lmhenry recommended, I'm going to share some of the things I would like to implement, and find someone to hold me accountable.  I'm going to do this, #MTBoS, but only with your help!

I debated for days before going to #TMC14 which morning session would be best for me.  I took @ddmeyer 's advice before he gave it, and chose the selfish option.  I choose to join the Group Work Working Group.  I felt that I had a handle on Algebra 1 content (not necessarily on how to teach it, but hey) and knew that what I needed most was to be able to get my students to interact together with the content.  I was terrified the first day, because it was definitely the choice that was outside my comfort zone!  However after the first day, I knew I had made the best choice ever!

One of the big take-aways for me was "talking points".  It gave everyone a voice and demonstrated that all voices were equal, and thus opening me up to listen to others in a way I'm not sure I ever have.  (Read about @cheesemonkeysf 's write-up on talking points here:  Talking Points Activity.)  We liked talking points so much that we tried them several times, including even taking the opportunity to observe others who were doing talking points.  We even started to create our own talking points specific to math!

One of the things that we heard over and over again was that in order for group work to be successful, as teachers we need to consistently push the authority back onto the students.  It sounded crazy at first and I know that I didn't fully listen to all that statement implied.  However, hearing it again on Saturday, it finally made sense.  But, I won't lie and say it sounds easy.  It's scary.  Really scary.  In fact, I'm worried I'm going to be too scared to try it.  It is so different from what I'm used to doing in class.  It's outside of my comfort zone, but for my students I need to.  I need talking points ingrained into my classroom so that all students have a voice.  And that they can use that voice to earn and demand respect from their peers, and support each other in that process.

Main point: my goal is to use talking points and other "restorative practices" (ask me more later... I'm only throwing that phrase around because I heard it during our session and want to know more) as the center of my classroom management.  Elizabeth said that things like that have worked at her school, and so I am very excited to try them for my classroom.  (And really scared--read above.)  I also hope that it is something my entire school might pick up on and use because I think it could really, really, really help.

Shoot, no picture, so @ddmeyer isn't going to read this!


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Checklists: Why I'm Excited to Try Them!

This morning I saw Steph Reilly's post about Checklists and Error Analysis.  Both are genius ideas (please, go read and I'm grateful to her for posting them.  I think checklists are going to be a life-saver for me...and here's why.

I don't grade homework or notebooks.  I don't have time and I don't want to put so much emphasis on homework that students want to copy.  (I wrote a lot more about homework here.)  However, I had a lot of trouble getting students to do the work required to get the learning.

Because of that I chose a unit and planned to have students do an Agenda assignment in preparation for the test.  I gave them an "agenda" with lots of options for tasks to complete.  (By the way, creating the agenda was a LOT of work for me.) They got to choose which ones to do in order to earn x points.  They had class time to work, but were expected to complete some if it out of class.  They had to have it completed BEFORE they could take the test.  This was pretty unsuccessful.  Students hated the agenda, to put it nicely.

I've been debating all summer how to hold students accountable for doing the work, but I knew that agendas probably weren't going to work.  There is something similar I'd heard of called "menus", but I'm not really sure they would be any better.  So I had a problem with no solution, and that is one of the reasons I was so excited to read Steph's post.

Here are the things I like about the checklist:
  • Can be built as we go, so I don't have to plan everything out ahead of time
  • Can include whatever I want, even notebook pages
  • It won't overwhelm students at the beginning because it will be empty
  • It will give students things to work on if they finish something else early
  • It will remind students of things that we have done that they have forgotten about
Anyway, I liked the idea so much that I am fairly certain it is the solution to many of my problems.  I wanted to link the assignments to specific learning targets, so I added a column that Steph didn't have in hers.  I also typed up some instructions, but didn't want to have to include them on the actual checklist, so I think I will make them notebook friendly and tape them in the front of our notebooks with our syllabus, bellwork schedule, and classroom expectations.


Since I made the documents, I'm going to go ahead and call them my #Made4Math Monday, but I totally stole it from Steph as stated above, so please read her post!

Note:  These files will open in google drive and you will have to download them to edit them in Microsoft word.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

#5things I Need To Do Before School Starts

Well, this morning on twitter @druinok inspired this post.  It really is #105things, but I simplified them into categories to help me feel better :)

1.  Get Organized
I need to organize EVERYTHING:  my closet, my wardrobe, my desk, my filing cabinet, my inbox, my google drive, my dropbox.  Name it and I would prefer it to be organized! (I also need to finish my teacher binder for the upcoming year, but I've got a few things to figure out first...)

2.  Buy Things
I need new things for a new year.  I have an Oriental Trading order (and maybe an Amazon order) to put in as well as some Target/Dollar Tree shopping to do.  I do very much enjoy the buying, but deciding what I need is important otherwise I would spend thousands!

3.  Plan Classroom Structure (ie Procedures)
I need a better way for distributing classroom supplies.  But I don't have a solution yet.  Also I need to decide how I'm going to do bellwork and how strict I want to be about the beginning of class.  I need a plan for storing notebooks in the classroom and maybe even folders too, since I just read Sarah's post about that yesterday.

4.  Plan Units
For many reasons I am restructuring some of my units (again!), and I don't have everything really figured out yet.  I want to make sure to incorporate more problem solving tasks into them as well, so I need to figure some of that out.  I also want to link the foundational standards into my units.

5.  Solidify Grading Expecations
For many reasons I also want to make changes to how my gradebook looks.  I'm not sure how to balance SBG with understanding of concepts (rather than just performing skills), but I really want to find a way to make it work.  Also with the foundational standards identified, I want to have different expectations for them (ie. higher level of proficiency) than with the others.

So there it is, all the big stuff I'm trying to do before school starts...obviously I need to plan individual lessons, write a syllabus, and other things too.  I also need to blog a lot!

Any suggestions for me?  What do you have left to do?


Monday, July 14, 2014

Vocabulary Quiz Rubric

I was working on my units this week and started thinking about how I wanted to focus on vocabulary.  I began to think about how I could score vocabulary, and my thoughts needed to be recorded.  Before I knew it, I had something to share for #Made4Math Monday!


Here is an image of the rubric I created.  I think it shows that I want to balance use and understanding of the words as well as knowing the definitions.  I usually provide the definitions and ask students to give the word and an example.  This gives me a better understanding of what they know.  It's not perfect, but it's the best I Have found.

Since I don't allow scores below a 2 to be final (students will have to reassess), I figured I didn't need to define what those lower scores might be.  That made my job a little easier.

I also was thinking of usually having 10 words for a vocab quiz.  If I have fewer new words than that I will add old words.  That will show that I value retention of the words not just memorization.

Do you quiz your students on vocabulary?  How do you score it?

Here is my file.  (It is set to print two per page for student notebooks.)  It will open in google drive, but you can download the Word file from that.